It’s 6:37am on a Sunday morning, and I’ve already woken up. My natural body clock has programmed me with an unusually early alarm, which means I’m out of bed already, ticking things off my to-do list before most have risen from under their duvets. Productive days tend to get me in a good kind of mindset for the rest of the week; the early birds among us will know what I mean. This usually includes getting to the gym, completing all “life admin”, putting the washing on, tidying the flat and getting myself out of the house to pick up some foodie essentials for the week ahead.
When I was younger, I remember walking to the local grocers hand in hand with my mum. She’d pull a paper bag from the string and ask me what fruit I’d like to take home with us that day. Cherries! We’d put handfuls upon handfuls into the bag, their red skins staining the brown paper until they were bursting at the seams. Even though I was told to be patient and not open the bag until we got home, my greedy fingers would slip in and pull the cherries by their stems, out and into my mouth. Their fleshy, sour-sweet centres were so vibrant and filling, they became my hands-down favourite fruit.
Straight out of the bag was always best, although this week I’ve been eyeing up all the plump juicy cherries in the supermarket. Their glossy skins have been tempting me to pick them over the punnets of strawberries that seem to be a more popular choice. Wimbledon, you’ve served me my fair share of strawberries and cream this year, that’s for sure.
With two massive punnets of cherries in my handbag, and a hankering for frangipane – I’ve been abstaining from eating too many almond croissants recently – there was only one thing that came to mind. Bakewell tarts. When I think of Bakewell tarts, I’m reminded of Mr Kipling’s. My dad used to buy these in six-packs, which I’d scrunch my face up at. There was just something sickly sweet about them, and far too processed, for my liking. And even though Bakewells can seem a faff to make – the shortcrust pastry, the coulis, the frangipane filling and whipped cream to finish – all that process and time spent making them is totally worth it. This recipe fills twelve 10cm tart tins. Just the right amount for a sophisticated dinner party (or to nom on the sofa in your PJs, because you can).
Cherry Bakewell Tart
250g plain flour
100g icing sugar
Pinch of sea salt
150g cold unsalted butter, cubed and refrigerated
1 egg yolk
15g ground almonds
Zest of 1 lemon
300g pitted fresh cherries
50g caster sugar
230g unsalted butter
230g golden caster sugar
230g ground almonds
50g plain flour
1tsp vanilla bean paste
Zest of 1 lemon
Extra thick double cream
Make your shortcrust pastry
1. Start by making your shortcrust pastry. This can be made a day ahead and kept in the fridge overnight. Sift the flour, icing suger and salt onto a clean, dry surface or into a bowl. Add the cold butter, rubbing the mixture between your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs. The less you handle it, the better!
2. Whisk the egg and yolks together and add them slowly to the mix, little by little, combining with your hands as you go. You might not need all of it, so be careful not to add too much liquid. When the dough comes together, flour it lightly, pat it into a flat round and then place it in clingfilm.
3. Refrigerate overnight if you can, otherwise a minimum of an hour is also fine.
4. Preheat your oven to 180C fan/gas mark 6. Take your dough out of the fridge, lightly flour your surface and roll out to a thickness of 3mm. Lay the dough over each fluted tart tin, gently press in and cut off any excess dough from around the edge. Keep repeating this until all your tins are lined with pastry.
5. Place a little silver foil in each before filling with ceramic baking beads and blind-bake for 10-15 minutes until the edges are starting to brown.
6. Remove from the oven, and take all the baking beads out then brush all over with the egg. Bake for another 2 minutes to seal any tiny holes that might have appeared. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Make your coulis
1. Pit and cut all your cherries into halves, then place into a saucepan with 50g caster sugar and 50ml of water.
2. Bring to a slow boil and then simmer gently for 15 minutes until the cherries have softened.
3. Leave to cool before pushing through a sieve to get rid of all the pulp and skin.
Make the frangipane
1. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy.
2. Beat in the ground almonds, and then add the eggs one at a time, beating between additions. Finally beat in the flour, the vanilla bean paste and the lemon zest.
When you’re ready to assemble everything
1. Place 2tsp of coulis into each baked tart, then pipe or spoon in the frangipane to fill each case. Top with a sprinkling of untoasted almonds and return to the oven for another 20-25 minutes. Don’t be tempted to open the oven door and have a peak until at least 15 minutes has passed, or the frangipane might collapse in on itself.
2. Once the tops are golden and brown, remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
Whip up some double cream with vanilla sugar to serve and top each tart with a fresh cherry!