¾cupgranulated sugar plus extra for sprinkling on the crust
2tablespoonsVermont maple syrup
1teaspoonvanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
Make the dough:
Combine the flour, confectioner's sugar and salt in a large bowl.
Slice the cold butter into very small cubes, about ¼-inch sized. Work these into the flour using a pastry blender until the mixture is coarse.
Add 3 tablespoons ice water to the mixture and use a spoon to toss it together. Add more ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing it together with the flour-butter mixture with the spoon. Add water until the dough is moist enough to hold together when you squeeze some in your hand.
Turn the contents of the bowl out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead gently 4-5 times: flatten it with the heel of your hand, fold up from the bottom, turn one-quarter turn and repeat. Do not over-knead the dough. Stop when the dough has just come together.
Divide the dough in half. Flatten each half slightly with the palm of your hand. Wrap one of the disks in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge to chill.
Divide the other disk into 3 portions. Wrap one of the portions and put it into the fridge (this will be for the white stars.)
Flatten out one of the other portions and add a few drops of red food coloring. Fold the dough over the food coloring, then knead and pull the dough to distribute the color through it. Aim to have streaks of red through the dough, but only spend a few minutes handling the dough: any longer will cause the butter in the dough to melt. Wrap the red portion in plastic and place it in the fridge.
Repeat these steps with the third portion of dough and the blue food coloring, wrapping and refrigerating it when you're done. Let all of the doughs chill for 30 minutes.
Prepare the filling:
Into a large saucepan, add the cherries, blueberries, the ¾ cup of granulated sugar, cornstarch, maple syrup and vanilla. Stir to combine the ingredients, then place the pan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring it every few minutes as it heats up. Once the mixture comes to a simmer, cook it for 1 minute, stirring constantly. The filling should thicken up very quickly at this point. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the filling to cool.
Prep the crust and stars:
After the dough has chilled for 30 minutes, remove the large wrapped disk from the fridge. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a circle, about 13-inches in diameter and to a 1/4-inch thickness. Carefully lift the dough circle and fit it into the tart pan.
Press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan. Roll your rolling pin over the edges of the pan to trim off the excess overhang. Loosely line the dough in the pan with plastic wrap and place the pan in the freezer to chill.
Take out the red, white and blue portions of dough. Roll them out thinner than you rolled the bottom crust, to about 1/8". Use a small star-shaped cookie cutter to cut out red stars, blue stars and white stars (I did 10 of each.) Place the stars on a plastic-wrap lined plate, cover them and place the plate in the freezer to chill.
Assemble the tart:
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Move the oven rack into the lower third of the oven. Remove the pan with the bottom crust from the freezer.
Pour the cooled filling into the crust and smooth it to an even layer. Remove the plate with the stars from the freezer. Arrange the stars decoratively over the top of the filling.
Use a pastry brush and a small cup of water to gently dot each star with a little water, just to moisten the surface. Once this is done, sprinkle the stars with granulated sugar.
Bake the tart for 45-50 minutes. It will be done when the filling is bubbling and the edges of the crust are lightly browned. Remove the tart to a cooling rack.
Once the tart has cooled for about 30-40 minutes, remove the outer ring. Use a large spatula to help move/slide the tart off the bottom disk onto a flat serving platter.
The filling will hold up better if the tart is completely cooled before slicing it. Makes 6-8 servings.
The idea of making pie or tart crust from scratch is daunting to many people, but it’s not as difficult as it seems. Keep your ingredients cold, and knead the dough only until it just comes together. Chill the dough before fitting it into the pan. Once you’ve tried it the process gets easier and easier, and tastes so much better than store-bought!
I recommend gel or ultra-concentrated food colorings, because they give much brighter and deeper shades than regular liquid food coloring. You can find these online or in craft stores that sell cake decorating supplies. Liquid food coloring is fine too, but just know that the colors will be weaker in the finished products.
The trick in coloring the dough is to knead the food coloring in quickly and lightly - to try the work the color in before the butter in the dough begins to melt.
The food coloring will get on your hands as you add it to the dough. It washes off fairly easily but you can always wear gloves for this step to avoid this.
You can use frozen fruit if you'd like. I tried this tart using frozen sweet cherries and frozen wild Maine blueberries, and they worked very well.
Don't skip the step of cooking the fruit before filling the tart: cooking helps concentrate and thicken the juices so the filling stays put when the finished tart is sliced.
Consider baking this tart up the night before or morning of your gathering. It can cut and served while warm, but the filling will hold together better if it's allowed to cool. Warm or cool, it has a lovely sweet flavor!