An Open Letter to Dorie Greenspan and Food52 Re: Cherry Crumb Bars
Dear Ms. Greenspan,
Although I am not much of a baker, I am familiar with your work. And to say I am familiar with your work is to say I have heard your name before. It seems you can’t go to any food-related corner of the internet without hearing your name. There is no respectable food blogger who hasn’t at least heard your name. So, when I saw this recipe for a cherry crumb tart (which I have renamed to “cherry crumb bars”, for reasons that will soon become obvious) on Food52, my interest was doubly piqued when I saw your name in the author’s box. (Ed. Note: Ok, so I Googled you, turns out you have an even more impressive resume than I suspected. But it is late at night and I am angry and your impressive credentials will not deter me.)
You see, now that I live in Michigan, the un-official cherry capital of North America, cherry recipes always pique my interest. Growing up, I can’t remember ever eating a cherry, save for the maraschino version which is to a fresh cherry what Natural Light is to beer (although I suppose someone of your kitchen prowess is probably unfamiliar with “the official beer of keeping it real”, trust me, it’s not what most would consider “beer”). You see, I grew up in the kind of small Midwestern town where cherries don’t grow and mothers balked at paying $6/lb. anything, especially something as prone to spoiling as fresh cherries. Therefore, I did not experience the joy of fresh cherries until adulthood. I did, however, experience plenty of cherry-themed décor. It was the 1990s after all. Now, I am making up for lost time and cooking every cherry recipe I come across. At $1.88/lb, how could I afford not to?
So, when I saw your recipe on Food52 two weeks ago, I thought of how perfect a cherry crumb tart (now known as cherry crumb bars) would be for the upcoming July 4th holiday. I planned to make it in time for my family’s visit tomorrow. Now, a first read of the recipe indicated that it was going to be quite a project. For starters, there was a pound of cherries to pit, but that is par for the course in a cherry recipe. Then there was the fact that it required a tart pan, a 9 1/2 inch tart pan, which I don’t have. (Not that I have a tart pan of any other size, but 9 1/2 inches seems pretty finicky). But, never fear, Food52 had a solution for that. Then, a first read of the recipe indicated that I had to make both a streusel topping AND a filling and said filling needed to be refrigerated an hour before baking.
And, after ALLLL that, I was still on board. But then. THEN, I skimmed the ingredient list for a second time and noticed something pretty obscure. On your “ingredient list” for the “filling” you casually include:
1 partially baked 9 to 9 1/2-inch tart crust made with Sweet Tart Dough
ONE. Partially baked. Tart Crust. THIS is where I lost my mind. You see, “1 partially baked 9 to 9 1/2 inch tart crust made with Sweet Tart Dough” is NOT an “ingredient.” And it is certainly not an ingredient “for the filling.” A partially baked tart dough is a recipe in and of itself. And where am I supposed to find said recipe? There was no link, no instructions, no recommendation for where one might find this tart dough.
So, just to recap. To make your Cherry Crumb Tart you would like me to find a recipe for sweet tart dough, mix it, presumably chill it, roll it out, and partially bake it THEN pit one pound of cherries, make a streusel topping, make a filling, let the filling sit in the fridge for an hour THEN bake the tart. And oh by the way it bakes for over an hour and a half. Oh and it gets better. After I spend all these HOURS making this extremely finicky tart, you include that it’s best served at room temperature the DAY IT IS MADE, but will keep in the fridge for ONE day. ONE. FREAKING. DAY.
But I guess you know how this ends right? Did I throw up my hands in frustration and abandon the mission?
Or, did I make the tart, but make it in rebellious fashion?
OF COURSE I made the tart. You are Dorie Greenspan after all.
Frustrated, Frazzeled, and Ferociously devouring my cherry crumb bars
PS-I didn’t use the crust and no one missed it. Also, where you suggest vanilla extract, I use almond. This is a trick my co-worker taught me. It makes your baked goods taste like they are professionally made. You can use it if you want. Although, I guess your baked goods are professionally made, so…
- For the Filling:
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ⅔ cup sugar
- ¾ cup almond flour
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 egg
- 1½ teaspoon almond extract
- 1 lb. cherries
- For the Streusel Topping:
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ¾ cup all purpose flour
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- First, make the filling. You can use a stand mixer, hand mixer, or food processor. I used a food processor.
- Cream the butter until smooth. Then, add the sugar and mix again until smooth.
- Add the almond flour, cornstarch, and egg. Beat until smooth.
- Stir in the almond extract.
- You can use the filling right away or, as Ms. Greenspan recommends, chill for an hour.
- While the filling is chilling, was and pit your cherries. (Note that if you don't plan to chill your filling, cherries should be washed and pitted prior to starting).
- When you are ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Aggressively grease a 9-9½ inch cast iron skillet or pie pan.
- Spread the filling into the prepared pan and top with pitted cherries. It will completely cover the filling and you may have to squeeze some of them in there. Try to squeeze in as many as you can.
- You may want to set your pan on a cookie sheet, in case it runs over. I did not have a problem with this though. It will depend on the depth of your pan.
- Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown. The middle will not be set.
- While your bars are baking, prepare the streusel.
- Place the sugar in a bowl, then add the flour. Cut in the butter either using a pastry blender or your hands, until small crumbs form. Store in the refrigerator until you are ready to use.
- Once the bars are done baking, removed from oven and top with streusel topping. Bake for another 35-40 minutes or until the streusel is just the color you want. The insides will not burn.
- Because these have no crust, if you serve them warm they will not be pretty. But they will be delicious. Once they have cooled you can firm them up in the fridge and they will hold their bar shape.
I have not tried this recipe with other flours, but I believe you could replace the nut flour with all purpose flour and omit the cornstarch.
I found the streusel topping to be a bit heavy, so you may not want to use all of it. Reasonable minds could disagree though.
The streusel can be made up to a week in advance and the filling three days. Keep both tightly covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.