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Sour Cherry Tart (Pizza di Visciole alla Romana)

Visciole are small, sour cherries that grow near Rome, and any Roman lucky enough to have a friend with a tree looks forward to the early summer harvest. Most visciole, like their even sourer relative, amarene, go straight into the jam pot, and it is the fate of most jams to end up spread in a thick tart crust. The use of the word pizza, rather than crostata, for this traditional Roman tart illustrates how the term was once applied to many kinds of cakes, breads, and pies. If you are short on time, use any good-quality commercial preserves—about 1 cup—that contains pieces of fruit.

Ingredients:

  • For the Cherry Jam:
  • 1 lb. sour cherries, pitted
  • 1⁄2 cup granulated  sugar 
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon 
  • For the Pastry Dough:
  • 1 whole egg plus 2 egg yolks 
  • 3⁄4 cup granulated sugar 
  • Pinch of salt 
  • 1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 6 pieces 
  • 3 cups cake flour 
  • For the Pastry Cream
  • 1 cup whole milk 
  • 1 large lemon zest strip 
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise 
  • 3 egg yolks 
  • 1⁄4 cup granulated sugar 
  • 2 Tbs.cornstarch
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten 
  • Confectioners’ sugar 

Directions:

To make the cherry jam, in a heavy nonreactive pan over medium heat, combine the cherries, granulated sugar, and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar, and then cook, stirring frequently, until the cherries have fully softened and are wrinkled and the mixture has thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. The jam will thicken further as it cools.

To make the pastry dough, in a bowl, using a wire whisk, beat together the whole egg and egg yolks, granulated sugar, and salt until well blended. Gradually whisk in the butter a piece at a time until all of it has been incorporated. Add the flour a little at a time, working it in quickly with your fingers until it is incorporated and the dough is smooth. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Form each piece into a disk, wrap separately in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for up to 24 hours.

To make the pastry cream, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, lemon zest strip, and the vanilla bean, and heat until small bubbles appear along the edges of the pan. Remove from the heat, let cool slightly, and then remove and discard the lemon zest and the vanilla bean. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, granulated sugar, and cornstarch until thick and pale yellow, about 5 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture while `stirring constantly. Then pour the contents of the bowl into the saucepan, place over low heat, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat a spoon, 5–10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Place the plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 11-inch pie pan or tart pan with a removable bottom, dust with flour, and tap out the excess. Remove the larger disk from the refrigerator and place in the prepared pan. Using your hands, pat it evenly over the bottom and about 1 inch up the sides of the pan. Patch as necessary to create a smooth surface.

Spread the cooled pastry cream over the dough. Then, using a tablespoon, evenly dot the pastry cream with the jam. Using the back of the spoon, gently spread the jam over the top, covering the custard completely in an even layer.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the remaining disk into an 11-inch round. Using a pastry wheel, cut the round into 10 strips each about 3⁄4 inch wide. Lay 5 strips across the filling. Lay the remaining 5 strips perpendicular to the first strips to create a lattice pattern. Cut off and discard any excess dough.

Bake the tart until the crust is golden brown, 40–45 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve.

Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, Rome, by Maureen B. Fant (Oxmoor House, 2005).