Category Archives: Tarts

from plum crumble . . .

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tart a-palooza

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pineapple tart bars

there’s a very famous taiwanese pastry known as feng li su (鳳梨酥).  it’s basically a shortcake like dough that’s stuffed with a pineapple paste.  the traditional way of making these taiwanese goodies, entails making a lard based dough, rolling it into 3″ diameter circles, stuffing it with pineapple paste, wrapping it up, and then fitting the little package into a 1.5″ square mold so that each one comes out uniform. Continue reading

lebne yogurt tart encounter

a few days into the new year, hubs and i wandered over to compose restaurant  (opened by a noma alum) in tribeca to check-out its bar menu.  to say that we were delightfully surprised would be an understatement.  we enjoyed our experience at the bar so much, that we made a reservation at the end of our meal to have the full ten-course experience in mid-february.  the much anticipated meal is finally coming up next week, and i’ll give a full download on the restaurant then.

i mention compose because it was there, where i first encountered the incomparable lebne tart. the barman explained to us that lebne is a type of middle eastern yogurt.   with the help of some light googling, i later learned that lebne goes by many names throughout the middle east and mediterranean region.  it is sometimes spelled lebni or labneh or laban or kefir cheese.  i don’t yet know what the regional differences are beyond the nomenclature.  the stuff itself has the consistency of sour cream or a strained greek yogurt — in fact, if you can’t find lebne in your supermarket, you can just buy greek yogurt, and let it strain overnight. Continue reading

sweet potato tart redux

i made a sweet potato tart for thanksgiving last year, and it turned out so swell that i decided to make it again.  i think it’s becoming a bit of a signature turkey day dessert of mine.  this time around, i did away with the chocolate layer, used a pate brisee tart shell, and decided to cover the entire top of the tart with candied pecans.

i wonder what iteration next year’s sweet potato tart will take?

tomato and caramelized onion tart

given my blog’s name, you’d have thought i’d have a plethora of tomato recipes on the site!  well, i finally got around to writing up a tomato tart recipe.  it was also a good opportunity, too,  to use up all the cherry tomatoes that i had been amassing in my fridge.  of course, it turned out that i was a few tomatoes shy ,but i think i had just enough to fill up the tart shell in a decent enough manner.

did i ever mention that tarts, savory and sweet, are like the perfect thing to make when entertaining?  you can make all the individual parts in advance, store them in your fridge, and just assemble and bake the day of.   Or, if you’ve got plenty of fridge space, you can just make the whole thing a day or so in advance, and re-heat.  i baked mine in the morning, and got away with serving it at room temperature later in the evening.

or, if you’re, hubs you can gobble up the leftovers for breakfast straight from the fridge.  .  .  i suppose it’s a bit like eating cold pizza for breakfast?

Tomato & Caramelized Onion Tart
(makes 1 nine-inch round tart)

Pate Brisee About half recipe here
Onions 3 medium sized onions
Butter 2 tbsp
Dijon Mustard 1 tbsp
Assorted Cherry Tomatoes 2-3 cups, washed and dried.  Remove stems and leaves, if any
Salt & Pepper 1-2 tsp each
Olive Oil 1 tbsp +1 tbsp, separately
  1. Roll-out the dough on a well-floured surface until it is about 13 inches wide and about 1/16th inch thick.
  2. Fit the dough into a 10 inch tart ring.
  3. Place the raw tart shell in the freezer and pre-heat oven to 350ºF.  When the oven reaches 350ºF, bake the tart shell for 15 minutes. Then brush on some egg white and bake for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven to cool.
  4. Slice onion into thin rounds.
  5. Heat butter and 1 tbsp of olive oil in a flat skillet.
  6. Add in onions and cook on low heat until the onions have caramelized.  Yes, you can do this quickly over high heat, but onions won’t release their sugars unless you do this low and slow.  It will take 25 minutes or so.  Patience is a virtue…
  7. Remove caramelized onions from skillet and mix with mustard.
  8. Spread the onions on the bottom of the tart in an even layer.
  9. Toss tomatoes with salt, pepper and olive oil in a bowl.
  10. Arrange the tomatoes on top of the onions.
  11. Bake for another 40 to 45 minutes, or until the tomatoes are puckered and slightly charred.

apple compote baklava v. 1.0

way back when in my pastry school days, chef divulged that the secret to amazing baklava laid in the usage of brown butter, rather than simply melted butter.  the caramel nuttiness of brown butter enhances the flavor of the pistachio mixture and intermingles with just about everything in between the  mille-feuilles of phyllo crust. i remembered chef’s advice, while i decided what to do with the quart or so of apple compote i had left in the fridge.  i figured i could marry the two concepts and concoct an apple compote baklava.

the baklava emerged from the glistening in golden brown hues. i could definitely smell the apples; however, the nut mixture seemed to over-power the apples in taste.  i think in the future i’ll tweak the recipe a bit more to have more apples, less nuts, and involve apple juice in the making of the steeping syrup for a truly apple-ly baklava experience.

Apple Compote Baklava v. 1.0
(makes one 9×13 inch tray, about 2-3 inches deep)

For the Baklava
Browned Butter 1 lb (4 sticks); melt butter in a sauce pan until it begins to brown slightly.  Watch the butter carefully, as it will go from being deliciously browned to bitter and burnt rather quickly.
Phyllo (Filo) Dough 1 package (16oz); i use the fillo factory brand available at whole foods.  Each sheet folded in half fits my plan perfect (13×18”)
Apple Compote 1 quart per a layer; if you want to do more than 1 layer, you need more. See recipe here.
Pistachios or Almonds 200g per a layer; i had 2 layers in my original recipe
Cinnamon 1 tsp per layer
For the Syrup
Water 2 cups (~500 ml); in the future, i might substitute the water with apple juice; and then cut the sugar down to 1 cup
Sugar 2 cups (~500 ml)
Honey ½ cup (~125 ml)
Apple 1 apple, washed, cored and sliced into quarters
Cinnamon stick 1 stick
  1. In food processor, coarsely grind up nuts.
  2. Mix nuts together with cinnamon and set aside.
  3. Brush pan with generously with butter (preferably not browned butter).
  4. Place 6 layers of filo dough on bottom of pan, generously brushing with browned butter between each layer.  (note: if you’re using 18X13 inch phyllo, cut the layers in half lengthwise, so that you have 9×13 inch sheets.  cover with a clean towel between use, as the filo dries out very quickly).
  5. Spread one layer of nuts evenly on top of 1st phyllo layer.
  6. Place 6 more layers of filo on top of nuts, brushing with browned butter between each layer.
  7. Spread a layer of apple compote (or nuts if that’s what you like).  Repeat step 6.
  8. Repeat step 7 and 6 one more time. The top layer should be comprised of filo.
  9. With a sharp knife, cut the baklava into diamonds.  Make sure you cut through the bottom of filo pastry.
  10. Bake at 350ºF for 45-60 minutes, or until golden brown.
  11. Make the syrup while the baklava is baking.  Combine all syrup ingredients into a medium sized saucepan.  Bring to a boil and allow the liquids to reduce by 1/3.
  12. Then set aside to cool.  [Remove apple and cinnamon stick when ready to pour over baklava].
  13. When baklava is ready, remove from oven and pour about 1/2 the syrup over.   Wait for 10 minutes and then pour over the rest of the syrup.
  14. The baklava is ready to eat when it has entirely cooled.

pomme pomme inspiration

i have this habit of picking up pretty brochures and things from pastry boutiques and restaurants while i travel.  i stuff them into some deep dark corner of my bag, along with the hotel folios and ticket stubs.  i tell myself that one day, they’ll make for good material if i ever take up scrap-booking. of course, i never actually do and i end up throwing out the whole lot.

i finally decided to tackle my “vacation” pile last night and came upon some of said brochures.  thought i’d post the one from joel robuchon in roppongi hills.  it’s filled with all sorts of delicious ideas about pastry and apples from normandy and brittany (and if you jump on a plane to tokyo now, you can still catch the last 2 weeks of joel robuchon’s normandy and brittany pastry offering!!!)

there’s a better picture of the pithiviers á la pomme that i had posted previously (and mislabeled as a chausson aux pommes).  the cake au caramel, noix et pomme pictured next to the pithiviers is kinda calling out, “make me, make me,” right now . . .


étude de chausson aux pommes

exhibit a above: chausson aux pommes from l’atelier de joel robuchon in roppongi hills (picture taken in bad lighting in a hotel room, moments before i consumed it).  notice the glistening exterior, slightly browned towards the edges,  intricate spiral vents, and even rise of the puff pastry shell. such perfection can be had for about 450 yen.

correction 10/15: i started digging thru stuff from my trip, and it turns out that exhibit a is actually a pithiviers à la pomme.  still made with apples and puff pastry, but it’s got some almond paste inside as well.  oo la la!

exhibit b below: my attempt at making chausson aux pommes at home . . . pale, not glistening, uneven rise, lack of intricate spiral vents. . . homey

having gone apple picking a few days earlier, i found myself with a lot of apples on my hand.  i decided to slice and dice them up and make a rather large quantity of apple compote (i’ve still got a quart or so left in my fridge).  rather than make an apple tart, as i’ve done in the past, i decided to recreate the chausson aux pommes (aka. french version of an apple turnover, more intricate, prettier, less sweet, flakier crust) from joel robuchon in tokyo (see exhibit a).

i went to new york cake to pick-up a 4 inch fluted dough cutter.  tried looking for a spiral vent cutter with no luck — the closest thing i found was the spiral kaiser roll indentation device.  i picked that up as well, but it didn’t work so well.  i could have sworn that i’ve seen something more suited for making intricate spiral vents at dehillerin in paris; i’ll have to burrow through the aisles again the next time i’m there.

i’ve deduced a couple of things to be improved on for my next round of  chausson aux pommes experimentation:

(1) even spiral vents are key to creating the uniform rise as seen in exhibit a.  without the even events, you’ll get more of a dome shape. until i find a spiral vent cutting device, i think the next best alternative is to attempt making the vents by hand with a round pastry wheel.

(2) one must really slather on the egg wash.  i brushed my chausson aux pommes rather lightly with egg wash, and in some cases left it off entirely.  to get that caramelized glistening effect, i think that a heavy hand should be used when applying egg wash.

(3) working with puff pastry is all about finding the perfect temperature.  the best state is when the dough is defrosted enough to be plyable but non-sticky and wobbly, i.e. when you cut the pastry, you should be able to pick up the cut-out disc easily without it losing its shape.  might have to put the puff pastry back into the freezer if the pastry is too warm.

Chausson Aux Pommes v. 1.0
(makes about 8 four inch pastries)

Puff Pastry 14 oz.; 1/8″ thick (I use Dufour; yes, it costs an arm and a leg. I’ve made my own in the past, far more economical, but time consuming and hard work!)
Apple Compote 1 recipe, yielding about 2-3 cups
Egg wash 2 egg yolk, 1 tbsp of milk, a pinch of salt, beaten until uniform
  1. Prepare apple compote a day in advance; and defrost puff pastry 2-3 hours in refrigerator before using.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 325ºF.
  3. Place a piece of parchment paper on your work surface, and unroll the puff pastry pastry.
  4. Dip your 4″ fluted round pastry cutter in some flour, and cut out 16 circles.  [save the leftover puff pastry scraps for another recipe. . . see sesame seed puff pastry sticks]
  5. If you have a spiral vent cutter, make 8 indentations with it; otherwise, do the best you can with a pastry wheel to mimic the spiral vents.  Or, skip the spiral pattern entirely and make vents of your own accord.
  6. Spread about 2 tbsp of apple compote onto 8 unvented pastry rounds.  Brush the edges with egg wash, and then place the vented pastry rounds on top. Press down around the edges to secure them. Place the assembled pastries onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  7. If the dough is started to get too soft, return the unbaked chausson aux pommes to the freezer for 15 minutes.
  8. When ready to bake, brush a lot of egg wash onto the tops of the pastry.
  9. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown.

earl grey chocolate ganache tart

i’ve been away for a while, and now i’m back!  so much to write about with respect to my recent travels.  that said, before i left i made a earl grey chocolate ganache tart based on jacques torres recipe.  it’s one of my favorite tarts to make,  super simple and yet extremely sophisticated in taste.

i didn’t have time to write it up before my trip, and am just now getting around to it. . .

Earl Grey Chocolate Ganache Tart
(based on Jacques Torres recipes; makes 6 three inch tarts)

Tart Shell
Butter 1 stick, cold and cubed
Salt ¼ tsp
Powdered sugar ¾ cup
Egg 1 large one
Rice flour ¼ cup
Cake flour 2 cups
Lemon 1 medium sized one, zested
Heavy cream 360g
Earl grey tea 2 tbsp
Honey 60g
Bittersweet chocolate 350g
  1. Place butter, salt, sugar, egg and rice flour in the bowl of your standmixer.  Beat until combined at medium speed with the paddle attachment.
  2. Add in cake flour and lemon zest.  Beat until a smooth dough forms.
  3. Remove the dough from the dough, form into a disc, wrap in plastic and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
  4. When ready to use, roll the dough out until it is about 1/4 inch thick.  Fit it into a mini tart ring, chill the unbaked tart shells in the freezer while waiting for the oven to heat up, and blind bake for 10 minutes at 350ºF.  Set aside to cool until ready for use.
  5. To make the ganache: pour heavy cream and honey in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Remove from heat and let the tea leaves steep in the cream.  After 30 minutes, use a mesh sieve to strain the tea from the cream.  Bring the cream to a boil again and pour over chocolate.  Continue stirring the chocolate mixture until it is smooth, shiny and lump free.   Pour the chocolate into the cooled tart shells.  Place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  6. When cooled, the tart is ready to serve.  Garnish with some fresh fruits!