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But Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Rosbottom is the author of "American Favorites" (Chapters Publishing, 1996)

A fresh Bing cherry tart makes a delicious finale to a summer meal. It took me several tries before I felt the flavors of almond and cherry were well-balanced in this tart, but the final version was worth the effort.

I pre-baked a sweetened pastry dough in a tart pan and filled it with a mixture of eggs, almond paste, brandy, grated lemon peel and cherries. As a final flourish, I sprinkled a streusel topping of butter, flour and brown sugar over the cherries and then baked it.

Although the tart can be made early in the day and reheated, it’s best when cooled only slightly before serving.

CHERRY AND ALMOND TART

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CRUST

1 1/2 cups flour

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Dash salt

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5 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into small chunks

2 1/2 tablespoons shortening, chilled and cut into small chunks

3 to 4 1/2 tablespoons ice water

FILLING AND TOPPING

1/4 pound (1/2 cup) almond paste, broken into small pieces

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Pinch salt

1 1/2 tablespoons brandy

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2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups Bing cherries, cleaned, stemmed and pitted

1/4 cup flour

2 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons butter, chilled and diced

Powdered sugar

8 sprigs mint

1 pint vanilla ice cream

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CRUST

Combine flour, powdered sugar, salt, butter and shortening in bowl of food processor and pulse until mixture resembles oatmeal flakes. Add enough ice water with machine running for ball of dough to form. Remove dough, flatten into disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour. (Note: Dough can be made 1 day ahead. Soften slightly at room temperature before using.)

Roll dough out on lightly floured surface to form 12-inch circle about 1/4-inch thick. Mold dough into 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Trim edges so 1/2 inch of dough extends over edge of pan. Fold overhang in and push against edge to reinforce sides of shell. Pierce bottom of shell with fork, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Bake shell uncovered at 375 degrees 10 minutes. Pierce bottom again and return to oven and bake until light golden, 12 to 15 minutes more. Remove from oven, but do not turn oven off.

FILLING AND TOPPING

Blend almond paste and eggs in food processor until smooth, 15 to 20 seconds. Add salt, brandy and lemon peel and process 10 seconds more. Pour mixture into pre-baked pie shell. Arrange cherries on top and press into filling.

Combine flour, brown sugar and butter in small bowl and pat over top of cherries. Bake tart until filling is set and top is bubbling, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove tart from oven and cool 20 minutes.

To serve, remove sides of tart pan. Sprinkle powdered sugar over top. Cut into 8 pieces and garnish each portion with 1 mint sprig and scoop of ice cream.

8 servings. Each serving with 1/4-cup ice cream:

445 calories; 216 mg sodium; 97 mg cholesterol; 24 grams fat; 50 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams protein; 0.49 gram fiber.


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