28 June 2010

Rustic Cherry Tart-Torta Rustica con Ciliegia

I adore sour cherries, don't you?   These are called griote. I also use amarene  too, as they have such a great tartness to them that I just can't stop eating them long enough to make them into to all sorts of cherry delights. I can never seem to get enough of them as their season is so brief and they are so very fragile.  I find I don't stray too far from my favorite way preparing and eating these glistening red orbs. When I want cherry pie or tart, I love this homey variety of pastry wrapped around these fruit lovelies, and I turn to my tried and true, free form, cherry filled tart. When I discover that they have finally arrived in the market I can't seem to stop making this particular tart over and over.  I do like them stuck in or over  fresh vanilla gelato or baked in a custard type dessert or a dark chocolate gooey cake, but for me the flavors sing when shown off to their best advantage in a flaky pastry. I have had a couple of requests for this recipe so I am sharing it with you so you can enjoy it before the season is past. I tuck a few of these luscious red drops into a freezer container for a longed for treat later on when the fruits are on the wane and I can pop a few of these into a crust and away we go, early summer revisited. I find the rough shape, plump and pleasing to the eye and easy to make with a small amount of effort.
 Don't let cherry season pass you by. I seemed to always be making this for my favorite American holiday, 4th of July. Then I knew it was really summer. Hope you enjoy it too.

Rustic Sour Cherry Tart
 8-10 servings
Oven preheated to 200*C or 400 *F after the chilling of the dough

200g (7.5 oz or generous 1 1/2 c) all purpose flour, measured onto a clean dry, work surface
generous pinch salt, added to the flour
150g (10T) butter, unsalted, cold, cut up into small pieces, keep cold
6 T cold or ice water, it might be a little less, you need to judge by adding a little at a time
2T coarse sugar, I like brown demerara, but anything will work

1 kg (generous 2 lbs) sour cherries, pitted** I use mine whole.
50g or so (1/4 c) sugar, I like to use a coarse grain brown sugar or unrefined white sugar
Grated orange or lemon peel from 1/2 fruit
Squeeze of the citrus juice or  1 T amaretto or small amount of almond extract

The method for making this pastry is called friasage in French and is done to make the dough a bit sturdier to keep the fruit juice from leaking out and for the dough to hold its shape. You don't lose the flakiness of the dough, if you work quickly and don't handle it too much.

This can be made in a food processor, quickly cutting the butter in by pulsing the processor before adding the water.
Since I don't have one, I just use the old fashion method.
You can use a pastry cutter ( or a large fork if you have one) and gingerly cut the small butter pieces into the flour and salt mix.
Or you can cut your butter very small, working quickly to keep the butter cold.
Add to the flour and  lightly mix  the butter pieces and flour. Quickly rub the larger butter pieces between your thumb and finger into the flour till you have a crumbly mix that is somewhat consistently pea sized.
Drizzle about half of your cold water  around the flour mix and quickly gather the pieces into a mass resemble a rough dough.  If you find it is just too dry to bring it together sprinkle the rest of the water in the areas that are dry and work quickly to bring the dough into a shaggy rectangular mass.
With a bench scraper or the heel of your hands smear the butter and flour across the surface of the table int a rectangular shape. Then gather the dough together with your hands or scraper from the sides toward the center and repeat a couple of times till the dough holds together and takes shape. Work quickly and lightly, handling as little as possible for best results. Place your flatten dough disc in a bag or covered bowl and refrigerate for an hour.

Mix all of your filling ingredients and set as your dough is relaxing in the refrigerator.

Remove the dough from the fridge and place on your dry lightly floured work surface.
Roll out your dough into a disk about 3 coins high not worrying about the rough edges of the dough. That gives you a nice rustic look to your tart. Just try to keep it in a fairly round shape as you roll out. I roll and turn the dough about a quarter of a turn in a circular fashion for keeping it even. I always roll my dough in all directions for strengthening the dough but without adding toughness.
Roll disc out to about 30cm or 12" taking care to either roll out on a sheet of oven paper or  cling film, and loosen and lightly flour a few times to keep it from sticking to your rolling surface.
Place the dough disc on a flat baking tray that has been lined with oven paper or a silicone sheet.
 Pour your fruit into the middle of the dough leave a couple of inches free from fruit.

Lift your dough towards the center of the tart and continue around the tart making several overlapping folds till all of the fruit is corralled in the middle of the tart and there is a nice amount of the fruit exposed. Give each of the fold a firm pinch with out squishing the dough together, but making sure the tart dough will hold the cooking fruit in place without all the delectable juice leaking out.
Lightly wash the top of the tart dough with water or milk and generously sprinkle with 2 generous tablespoons of coarse or regular sugar.
Sometimes I stick the tart in the refrigerator for  15 minutes or so if it seems that the dough has softened too much and might benefit from a bit of chilling to help it keep its shape, but not entirely necessary.
Bake in a hot oven ( 200*C or 400 *F) about 50 minutes or so until the fruit is bubbling and the crust golden. If you give it 5 minutes to cool and then remove it to a wire rack, the crust will retain its crispy nature. Best served warm after cooling for at least 30 minutes  and cut into 6-10 wedges, or room temperature with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
I can vouch it is excellent for breakfast the next morning whether you warm it up again in the oven or not.
**Cooks notes: this tarts works well with a variety of fruits or combinations, adjusting the sugar to suit your taste. I like cherries combined with peaches, plums, apricots or nectarines as well.  I made it with a cherry pear combo that was very tasty too. I think I see a strawberry rhubarb tart in the near future as my rhubarb is finally ready a;though raspberries might have to step in for the strawberries that are just about gone. Any of these fruits alone or combined make a wonderful fruit tart.  You may want to cut back on the sugar if your fruit is very sweet. Of course, if you use sweet cherries, you may cut back on the sugar also.
The rolling of your dough, as well as the smearing and gathering of this dough, is about finesse and not brute strength. It comes with time and practice. A good excuse to make this tart a few times, like I have been doing over the past few weeks.
This can be made into individual mini tarts as well. A bit fiddly, but worth the effort. I usually make about 6 of them and 8 if I'm feeling patient. The smaller they are, the more difficult to work with. 

03 June 2010

Finalmente..La Notte della Pizza e´del Pane!

I'll tell you what, it's an exciting time in the Roncaglia household these days.
Finally, pizza night arrived, much to my and my in laws delight, and, Fabrizio's relief. At last he can have some peace, that is until we start pestering him for when the next pizza party is slated to take place.
It all started about two years ago in the spring when my father in law decided that we needed a wood burning oven on the premises for me to ply my bread baking trade to a different means of bringing the bread to the table and kicking up my baking skills a notch or two.  Papa also wanted to have a decent pizza as our attempts in our regular and convection oven, weren't too bad, but just not quite pizzeria style quality and he had faith in me. I think it didn't hurt that when my in laws had their friends over for one of their famous big dinners, one or two of them always brought some of their home baked, oven fired bread along for the sampling. Again, my in laws have never failed to praise my bread and secretly hope that I will make a loaf or two of my black olive bread for any of those big dinners, so they had bragging rights expanded as well. It almost goes without saying that the rest of the feast is always memorable, thanks to their tireless effort to "put on the dog" as my parents use to quaintly state, and the fact that they had all those years to perfect the art of entertaining with good food and drink from their "La Baita" restaurant days. Their commercial gelato maker is always prominently featured as well in these feasts as my father in law has perfected the art of a banana gelato, that is rich tasting without all those cholesterol inducing ingredients. He won't say exactly what is in it either, but, I can tell you that it is a very brief list.
 Enough said.
After much discussion about which oven to purchase and and why, naturally, with some disagreements over the details, the day arrived, just before Italians go on holiday for the month of August, when we became the proud owners of a wood fired oven and it was actually in our possession. You can read about it's arrival here
Now, if you think that it would be a straight forward proposition to install it, test, tinker around with it, adjust and go into full blown use of it, like I did, then, you would be wrong. Like so many things that seem straightforward  in Italy, it is a long serpentine route to the destination and even a bump or two along the way, a bit of back draft, too much snow on the roof,  too little dry wood of the particular kind you need, or just too hot, just too, too, tooooo long in coming.  But, what do you know, the time arrived last night. Arrived indeed and enjoyed by all it was. 
The second most asked question of me from acquaintances, right after how Fabrizio and I met is, "Do you miss America?"  I always reply, that aside from easy access to my family and friends, other than virtually, I miss the direct and often expedient way that things get done in America, the directness, the convenience, the immediateness, that is, at least for me, quintessentially American. Yes, I do sometimes miss that very much indeed and occasionally a movie in English at the movie theater.
Fabrizio's parents digging in at last 
on Davide's naturally leaven pizza pies
Definitely worth the wait!
Luckily for us, Fabrizio's old friend Davide, a former colleague and one of the local kids that hung around the Villar Perosa Hotel in the days when Fabrizio worked for the Agnelli family, and currently the maestro of the pizza department in our Pinerolo Eataly, came over to help us get off on a positive start to our wood fired pizza and bread adventure. You can see Davide hand tossing pizza dough here, as I got a much better photo of him in action over at Eataly than I did last night. I was too busy trying to ask questions and absorb his techniques to get too many decent photos.  Big thank you Davide!
These are our leftover pizzas ready to warm up and top fresh today in the oven that is still warm enough to heat them through..mmm, mmm good!

If you're looking for a pizza dough that performs well, a good one to try is from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Peter's book is a great resource of accessible yeasted dough information and will have you making great pizza, foccacia and artisan breads in no time. It has a lot of instruction, but I think you will find the info invaluable. You can find a copy of the recipe here in it's entirety, but I do recommend buying the book as it is well worth every penny if you love to make great bread.

We all ate ourselves silly and there seemed to be as much enthusiasm for my pizza dough as there was for  Davide's. That bodes well for my future of making pizzas for my in laws! 
It was a fab evening with the fab folks that work over at Eataly.  When you're in Pinerolo, you just have to stop in and try Davide's pizza as well as Chef Roberto's delicious cuisine. If you're lucky their wives, Michelle and Monica just might be taking your order and serving you some of Eataly's high quality food. Naturally, a meal isn't complete without a digestivo from our friend Enrico's line of Genepy and Barathier. Those of you familiar with it will savor the flavor and those of you unfamiliar will just have to come and try some whilst you're here, as you won't find Genepy outside the Italian and French alps.

I must say though the biggest thrill came this morning at 6 am when we came back to the oven upon Davide's instruction and loaded it up with my naturally leavened loaves of bread that had been languishing in the refrigerator waiting for the oven to cool down enough. We returned in an hour and some later, to discover these bronzed beauties awaiting our return.

It was so exciting to see them puffed up and browned to a hue sometimes difficult to accomplish.
Naturally, there is some tweaking to do and I look forward to it, but when we pulled open the door and found all these lovelies inside, my heart skipped a beat. I love cooking and baking has always fed my soul, making fruit and chocolate desserts rich in cream and butter is always a thrill, but baking bread speaks to me in a way that seems to satisfy a very basic instinct of mine, making our daily bread. Firing up the wood oven stirred my connection to the  weekly town bake that used to be so common over a good portion of Europe and the wood stoves I cooked on in the states many moons back as well.  Then I think of the Egyptians who are credited with being the first bread bakers, burying their terra cotta pots in a fire pit and when I feasted my eyes on these, I  felt transported back and then some.
 Be still my beating heart.

 Fabrizio steals the show and my heart as well!

 I love that even though my bread is still the same recipe that I have make hundreds of times over the years, it seems to now have a new personality and that, is so very exciting. I look forward to this next phase of the journey. I think we will be looking toward offering some special weekends perhaps dedicated to the wood fired oven classes, coming up in the near future. Stay tuned.
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