Amarena Caramel Tart

I like a little ambiguity in life.   Maybe that’s why I love the darkest, most bittersweet chocolates.

Warm chocolate ganache over cold gelato.  Zesty, pucker-up citrus with smooth, warm, nutty chocolate.   Hot, spicy chilli with silky, luscious mango.

I must confess I do particularly love tart and sweet together.   Like tart cherries in a sweet syrup.   Bitterness and sweetness vying for my attention in a sticky caramel with just a hint of burnt sugar to make it edgy.  It works.  Oh, my,  how orgasmically it works.    So that’s what I’ve put together here for you.

Tart morello cherries preserved in a sweet, spiced syrup.

A rich, dark, and buttery caramel, with just a hint of burnt sugar bitterness.

A light, flaky almond crust to encase it all in a subtle nuttiness.

This is a lovely, refreshing take on a caramel tart for summer, although it would be amazing at any time of year.  There’s no chocolate.  Nope.  Not a gram, not a shaving.  Tempted was I, but like a great outfit, less is often more.

Mmmm, you see how amarenata adds awesomeness well beyond the realm of gelato?

It stands up alone, the contrasting flavours and textures playing a symphony with every mouthful.   With this tart, you can choose how to compose that symphony.    Do you want the cherries immersed in the caramel to experience an explosion of tart acidity throughout the gooey caramel?  Or do you prefer to keep the layers separate to experience a burst of tart freshness before sinking your teeth into the sticky soft sweetness?

I’ve made this tart two ways.  The first with the cherries layered over the caramel for which I made individual-sized tarts.  The second, a single large tart, with the cherries arranged in the caramel and a sprinkling of extra cherries on top.    I love them both but maybe, just maybe, I love it best with the cherries in the caramel.

I hope you enjoy this one.  Whichever version you choose.

I’ll be reverting to some healthy recipes next but more buttery, sugary goodness is on its way too.    A big welcome and thank you to readers who’ve recently joined the blog and who follow the Facebook page.  So nice to meet you all and thank you for the comments and feedback!

Makes 1 x 23-24cm tart or about 6 – 8 individual tarts

Almond Pasta Frolla
125 grams plain flour
50 grams almond meal
40 grams caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
125 grams unsalted butter, chilled
1 egg yolk

250 grams sugar
220 grams cream (35% fat)
pinch of fleur de sel
120 grams unsalted butter, cubed and softened at room temperature

500 – 600 grams Amarenata cherries, drained weight*

*You can either make your own amarenata or buy it from specialty food shops.  If at a loss, don’t despair!  Buy some preserved morello cherries, drain them and reserve the liquid (it should be just water or a light syrup).  Place the liquid in a saucepan with a dash of vanilla and cinnamon and about a tablespoon or two of sugar.  You can omit the sugar if the cherries are preserved in syrup.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes.  Add the cherries and bring to the boil.  Remove from the heat and drain the cherries before using.  In all cases, reserve the syrup to use in desserts, over ice-cream, to flavour milk-shakes, anything.  It is delightfully cherrylicious.  If you feel lazy, just add drained morello cherries, as they are!

Almond Pasta Frolla
Preheat the oven to 190℃.

Have ready your large or small tart pan(s) on a tray and line them, if required.   I find I get the best results if I line the base of a large tart pan as it makse for easy removal of the base.  I generally don’t line the smaller ones.  I never grease my tart pans.  The sides of your pastry will keep their shape better if you do not grease the pans.

Make the pastry as per the instructions in the recipe for Torta di Ricotta Siciliana.    Roll out the pastry to a thickness of 3mm – 4mm and line the prepared tart pan(s).  Chill in the freezer for at least an hour before baking.  You can make the pastry ahead of time and chill in the freezer on the day you plan to bake it.  This is great if making small tarts you’d like to serve over several days, with various fillings 🙂

Line with baking paper and baking weights and bake blind for about 15 – 20 minutes until the edges start to colour.  Remove the weights and paper and return to the oven to bake for a further 10 – 15 minutes, until the crust is golden and cooked through.  Set on to a wire rack to cool completely.

Place the sugar into a large saucepan.  I prefer stainless steel as this allows me to see the colour of the caramel as it cooks.  Avoid non-stick pans for making caramel.  Just don’t go there.

Place the pan over a low heat and gently stir the sugar as it dissolves.  The best action is to gently move the sugar toward the middle of the pan and back, checking the edges of the pan for any sugar that is dissolving and colouring too quickly and mix it in.    Don’t take your eyes off it for a second and have patience.  When it is all dissolved, stop stirring and let it cook until the colour deepens.  You can gently swirl the caramel on the base of the pan to make sure the caramel darkens evenly.  I like my caramel fairly dark but, for this recipe, do as you wish.  If you like your caramel blonde and sweet, that’s all good.  If you like it darker with a bittersweet edge to it, you’re a kindred spirit. 🙂  Just be careful to not overcook and burn the sugar.

When it’s ready, carefully pour in the cream, stirring as you go.  It may bubble and splatter as the cool cream hits the hot sugar.  The sugar may form crystals and a few lumps of toffee, but don’t fret.  Keep stirring over a low heat until the mixture is smooth.

Remove from the heat and stir in the butter in two batches.  Stir until the caramel is smooth and silky.  Set aside to cool.  When cool, pour the caramel into the tart crust(s).

As you can see, I like my caramel nice and dark 😀

At this point, if you wish to have your cherries immersed in the caramel, add them in concentric circles to the tart filling and add any extras on top, randomly.  Place in a covered dish and refrigerate until the caramel sets.

If you prefer to arrange the cherries on top, refrigerate the tart with only the caramel until the caramel sets.  Once set, you can arrange the cherries on top of the tart.

Serve on its own or with a dollop of cream spiked with a little Amaretto liqueur or the syrup from the amarena preserves.

Any leftovers will keep for a day or two, covered, in the refrigerator.

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