Sweet Cherry Crostadas

Okay, so I know a few posts back I was proclaiming apricots to be the cutest produce ever, but that was a week before cherries starting taking over our lives. Oh, cherry, baby. So adorable, so delicious, so perfect right now. Particularly when they are encased in buttery, flaky pastry like these Sweet Cherry Crostadas. Let's do this.

No one loves a big celebratory summer fruit pie more than I do, but there's just something about making big old desserts in miniature form that gets me all sorts of happy. Maybe it's because I was a girl who grew up playing with wee little Charmkins and My Little Ponies. Maybe it's because I like being able to scale a recipe up or down and not have an entire pie taunting me from the kitchen counter. Or maybe it's because I not-so-secretly hate sharing. But any reason is a good one to make these individual cherry crostadas, I'll tell you that right now.

This recipe is so fantastic for summer, because the cherries are really the star here. And it's super, super simple, guys. We're talking minutes to throw together a crust in the food processor (and even if you do it by hand, it doesn't take that much longer), and while the dough is resting the fridge, recruit a friend or willing domestic partner to help pit the cherries. And if you can rig up a clever way to pit them, like, say, with a fondue fork over a beer bottle to catch the pits, it will make you feel like Macgyver and make the whole thing that much more fun.

And can I just say that pitting cherries is as delightful as shucking corn, which is to say the sort of glorious summer kitchen work that makes you wish you were a farmer's wife? I mean, until it occurred to me that farmer's wives also have to do many, many other things that are very unlike prepping beautiful summer fruits and vegetables and have to be constantly resourceful and at the ready at every moment of the day so I gave up that idea right quick. Turns out you get a lot of thinking done pitting cherries.

There's nothing truly revolutionary about the fruit and pastry pairing, but since I can't seem to get over the craving for it lately, I've started playing around with a few things that make for nice little twists on the classic. Turbinado sugar sprinkled over the crust and topping of any fruit/pastry situation adds a lovely golden sparkle and a nice rustic crunch, for one. And because I can't seem to get enough of the dreamy natural flavors that bloom when fruits meet nuts, I decided to toss the cherries for these crostatas in some almond meal to help thicken the juices rather than cornstarch or flour, and scattered extra across the bottoms of the pastry cases to keep the crust from getting saturated with juice. Practical and flavorful, hooray! I felt especially smart after that decision. Like farmer's wife smart. I celebrated by eating two crostadas. You should, too.

Sweet Cherry Crostadas

Almond meal can be purchased at specialty grocers like Whole Foods or Trader Joes and most health food stores, or you can just make your own by finely grinding raw almonds in a clean coffee grinder (don't overprocess though or they'll turn into almond butter). Taste your cherries before starting and gauge how much sugar you want to add--you may need a bit more than 2 tablespoons, or perhaps none at all.

Serves 8

1 recipe My Favorite Pie Crust, chilled

2 pounds sweet cherries, pitted
1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup almond meal
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Turn the pie dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rough circle, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick--don't worry about making perfect circles or smooth edges.

Toss the cherries in a large bowl with the sugar 2 tablespoons of almond meal. Beat together the egg and milk in a small bowl.

Assemble the crostadas one at a time by placing the dough circles on the baking sheet, brushing each lightly all over with the egg wash and sprinkling each evenly with the remaining almond meal. Divide the cherries equally among the dough circles, leaving a full 1-inch edge all around. Fold the pastry edges up and over the filling (leaving the filling uncovered in the center), pleating as you go to make the dough fit tight against the fruit. Place the baking sheet with the assembled crostadas in the freezer for 15 minutes or in the fridge for an hour.

When you're ready to bake, position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees.

Brush the edges of the crostadas lightly with the remaining egg wash and sprinkle all over (pastry and filling) with turbinado sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden and the cherries are soft and bubbling. Cool on a wire rack before serving with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Fruit, PieShauna Sever