With layers of vanilla pastry cream and homemade cherry pie filling, these Vanilla Cherry Tarts make a great summer dessert!
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I like to say that writing a food blog engages both sides of my brain as recipes usually need to be exact (left brain) while the photography and writing is on the more creative end of things. But every once in a while, I need to go completely left brain with a recipe. Like with these Butterflake Dinner Rolls. I pulled the ruler out to measure squares of dough. It might not be the same as Laura inventing a new metal…but measuring out squares of dough is pretty darn left brain!
Well, the left brain struck again with these Vanilla Cherry Tarts. Yup, I had the ruler out. And get this…I actually tested the measurements and folds with a piece of scrap paper first. Yup, I had a test model for these tarts. But the real thing tasted way better than the test model. Trust me.
These Vanilla Cherry Tarts are essentially puff pastry shells filled with a layer of vanilla pastry cream and topped with a layer of cherry pie filling. I stumbled across this recipe a couple of years ago when I was taking some baking courses at the local community college. (That was back when I was toying with the idea of opening my own bakery. Good thing I discovered the blog world instead…)
These tarts are delicious! But what makes them really fun is their shape. Sure, you could just use muffin tins or mini tart pans, and these Vanilla Cherry Tarts would work quite well. But the diamond shape is unique. I served these up for dessert, and the first thing everyone commented on was the unique shape. It doesn’t take too long to create the diamond shapes, either. But it does require a ruler…and your left brain.
Quick note about the cherries: I used frozen cherries that had already been pitted because, well, pitting 24 oz. of cherries didn’t seem like a lot of fun to me. I’ve done it before, and it takes a surprisingly long time to pit cherries! (I don’t mind doing it when eating them…but pitting enough cherries for a whole pie? Ugh. And I’ve even got one of those fancy cherry pitters…or ‘kitchen unitaskers’ as Laura calls it.)
Do you lean left-brain or right-brain?
What’s the best summer tart you’ve ever eaten?
Vanilla Cherry Tarts
For the Cherry Filling
For the Vanilla Pastry Cream
For the Cherry Filling
- Pour cherry juice into measuring cup. If necessary, add enough water to reach ⅔ cup of total liquid. (Note: It’s ok if the liquid is all water, but if you have cherry juice…use it for flavor!) Transfer liquid into a saucepan and place over medium-high heat.
- Meanwhile, whisk together water and cornstarch. Once cherry juice begins to boil, stir in water/cornstarch mixture. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Remove pan from heat and stir in sugar and lemon juice. Add cherries and stir until well combined. Place filling in refrigerator to chill.
For the Vanilla Pastry Cream
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch until smooth and pale in color; set aside.
- Using a medium saucepan, heat the milk (stirring occasionally) over medium heat until it just begins to simmer.
- Slowly pour half of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture, whisking vigorously the entire time. Pour this egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk. (Tip: Use a fine mesh strainer when you pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan. This will ensure a smooth pastry cream later.)
- Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat and then continue cooking for 1 more minute, stirring constantly the entire time. Remove mixture from the heat, and add vanilla extract and butter; stir until fully combined and smooth. Set pastry cream aside to cool. (Note: The pastry cream will thicken quickly at this stage. It becomes somewhat difficult to stir, but keep stirring to prevent the cream from burning!)
For the Tarts
- Working with one sheet of puff pastry at a time, roll into a 10”x10” square. Cut square into (4) 5”x5” squares. Repeat with remaining sheet of puff pastry. (Note: In total, this will create 8 smaller squares of dough.)
- Working with one square at a time, fold the square into a triangle. With the folded edge of the triangle closest to you, make a cut ¼” in from both the left and right edges of the triangle. The cuts should run from the folded edge and stop ¼” from the top of the triangle.
- Unfold pastry. There will be strips of dough on each side of square. Brush the tops of each of these strips with water. Carefully fold the left strip over so that it lays along the right edge of the square (see image in post). Repeat, folding the right strip over to the left edge. This will create a rimmed pastry square with a “knot” at both top and bottom. Place tarts on parchment-lined sheet pan. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough.
- Using a fork, dock the center portion of the tarts every 2”.
- In a small bowl, whisk together egg with 1 Tbsp water. Brush just the rimmed edges of the tarts with this egg wash. Sprinkle tops of edges with cinnamon and sparkling sugar.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Spread the Pastry Cream evenly among the tarts. (Tip: If the pastry cream has cooled, you can use your fingers to spread it into the bottom of each tart.) Bake at 350°F for 13-14 minutes, or until edges of tarts have puffed up and are stable.
- Remove tarts from oven and add generous scoop of chilled cherry filling. Continue baking at 350° for 28-30 minutes, or until edges of tarts are crisp.
- Let cool slightly and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (optional) before serving.