There was a pastry shop in Rome, somewhere off the Piazza Navona, that often displayed a cherry tart in its window. It was improbably claret and basked in the honey-gold light of the dying afternoon. Lured as by the finest jewels, I walked into the shop one day and asked for a large piece, using my hands to mime the size. I ran out into the street and greedily bit into my prize. And then: utter disappointment.
The tart was all trickery. The cherries were trapped under a thick layer of flavorless gelatin, the cream filling was cornstarch-heavy, and the crust might as well have been cardboard.
With this recipe, I've tried to recreate the illusion of that Roman shop window, but with the substance the original lacked. The crust is shortbread crumbs and ground almonds, which are complemented by a sweet almond liqueur-flavored mascarpone filling.
The crowning touch: an Amaretto and cherry glaze that lightly coats a generous pile of fresh cherries.
I used Walkers brand shortbread rounds. Two (5 1/3 ounce) packages yield the two cups crumbs called for in the recipe.
- Active time: 40 minutes
- Total time:1 hour, 40 minutes
- 2 cups shortbread cookie crumbs (See Notes)
- 6 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup toasted almonds, finely ground
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh cherries, stemmed, pitted, and halved
- 3/4 cup Amaretto liqueur
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
- 2 cups mascarpone
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
In medium bowl, combine shortbread crumbs, 1/4 cup brown sugar, almonds, butter, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Press into bottom and up sides of tart pan. Bake until light golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and cool completely, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring 3/4 cup cherries, 1/2 cup Amaretto, sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt to boil in small saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until thick and syrupy, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to large bowl and cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Add remaining fresh cherries and toss to coat. Set aside.
Combine water and gelatin in small bowl. Microwave until gelatin dissolves, about 20 seconds. Cool to room temperature, about 5 minutes.
In medium bowl, whisk together mascarpone, remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar, remaining 1/4 cup Amaretto, vanilla, remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, and cooled gelatin mixture until smooth.
Spread mascarpone mixture in cooled tart shell and top with cherry mixture.
Chill at least 30 minutes before serving.