Sweet Tart

April 19, 2010 at 12:14 am 1 comment

Let me get the embarrassing admission out of the way right off the bat. I had never made a tart before. Pies, cakes, cookies, cheesecakes, flans… nearly every other dessert that comes out of an oven had come out of my oven. But never a tart.

I didn’t own a tart pan, for one thing, couldn’t quite imagine how the movable bottom was secure, how the crust would just pop right out. I hadn’t spent time poring over decadent recipes, didn’t have a family recipe like my grandmother’s double-crust pie crust recipe. I wasn’t motivated.

Until a few weekends ago. Our friends who bestow upon us the lovely luxury of a weekend getaway ranch house on the Blanco River wanted us to join them there. I wanted to feed them well. I planned a light spring dinner, befitting an April evening on a long, low stone porch overlooking a river lined in bursting spring green: chilled salmon, grilled asparagus, spinach salad with kiwi and avocado. While making groceries for the weekend, I came across a huge container of beautiful red strawberries, and the word “tart” popped into my head and wouldn’t leave.

So I picked up the strawberries, made one extra stop to buy a tart pan, and headed home to research recipes. I was really just concerned with the crust, and the recipe I found (online via PBS and Martha Stewart’s “Everyday Food”) seemed simple enough:

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled) plus more for handling dough
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 c sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Blend all in a food processor until moist crumbs form (I pulsed, it took less than two minutes). Press into a 9″ round tart pan with removable bottom. Prick evenly with a fork and freeze for 15 minutes. Bake 25-30 minutes at 350, until golden. Press down gently with the back of a spoon if crust begins to puff up (it did, I did, all was well). Remove from oven and cool completely in the pan.

I had my strawberries set, and took further inspiration from Martha, who suggested a cream cheese filling. I mixed about two-thirds of a brick of Neuchatel (all I had in the fridge) with the slightest amount (a mere sprinkling) of confectioner’s sugar, and spread that over the cooled crust (which I left in the pan).

I chilled that for 10 minutes or so, then pulled out a jar of passionfruit curd, brought from Australia by my mother-in-law, and spread that over the cream cheese. I sliced the strawberries and began layering from the outside in.

As the strawberry slices stacked up, the tart began to remind me of an enormous zinnia. I left a small circle in the center showing golden passionfruit curd.

Then I remembered some kiwi in the fridge, and sliced one of those to fill in the circle and provide a base for one final garnish of the largest strawberry in the bunch. Following Martha’s suggestion for a red currant jam glaze, I heated some organic strawberry preserves for 30 seconds in the microwave to liquefy them, brushed that over the berries, stepped back, and considered it done.

To tell the truth, I considered it perhaps a little more than done, wishing I could go back to the beautiful zinnia. But it was time to go. I packed the pan carefully in a vintage Tupperware bowl, packed that into a tight-fitting cooler, tucked the whole contrapation into a safe spot in the trunk with all of our other weekend gear, and hauled it out into the wilds of Blanco County. Where it arrived more or less intact. Our friends did me the honor of having several pieces, exclaiming over the crust, and generally flattered me wildly (even sending me a posy of lilacs, hydrangea, and callas for it later in the week). I will admit, it was as delicious as it was purty, and it was plenty purty. I can imagine all kinds of tarts coming out of my kitchen from here on out. Send your requests.


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Tortizzas! A little nosh while you wait

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Nicolette Baker  |  April 27, 2010 at 4:56 am

    Just thought I’d let you know the tarts rocked! My boyfriend’s parents were so impressed. I told them about your blog and they will be checking in as well. Keep the good tastes coming.


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Some of my cookbooks

In no order except for how they appear in my LibraryThing cookbook catalog: True Women Cookbook: Original Antique Recipes, Photographs, & Family Folklore, Janice Woods Windle (1997) * Made in Texas; H-E-B's 100th Anniversary Cookbook (2005) * The Texas Cowboy Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos, Robb Walsh (2007) * The Silver Palate Cookbook, Julee Rosso, Sheila Lukins (1982) * In the Land of Cocktails: Recipes and Adventures from the Cocktail Chicks, Ti Adelaide Martin & Lally Brennan (2007) * Braise: A Journey Through International Cuisine, Daniel Boulud (2006) * Moosewood Cookbook : Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant, Mollie Katzen (1977) * Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer's New Orleans, Susan Spicer (2007) * Saveur Cooks Authentic American: By the Editors of Saveur Magazine, ed. Colman Andrews (1998)

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