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tart a-palooza

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mixed fruit tart


sometimes when i’ve got some extra tart dough lying around that i want to use up, i whip up a fruit tart.  it’s really quite easy to do and a great way to display the jewels of mother nature’s creation.  first, i bake the tart shell (using any type of pastry) until it is fully cooked and i let it cool.  then, i whip up some creme legere (which is about 2/3 pastry cream and 1/3 whipped cream).  i spread a layer of creme layer on the bottom of the shell, and then arrange fruit to completely cover the top of the shell.  when using fruit that oxidizes (aka apples), i rub lemon on the fruit to prevent discoloration. And that’s all there is to it in a tart shell!

chestnut pear tart gone rogue

IMG_2461sometimes i start out well-intentioned in my kitchen. i mean to follow a recipe to the letter, and usually i do.  however, sometimes i realise that i haven’t got a particular type of ingredient in my pantry, and sometimes it’s obscure enough that i don’t feel like special ordering it or traveling 50 blocks in search of it from some specialty food store in nyc.  sometimes, i decide to go rogue!

i made a mental note a few weeks back that i wanted to test out pierre herme’s chestnut pear tart. then a few days ago, i decided that i should really use up the leftover poached pears and chestnuts paste from my montblanc experiment before they spoiled.  thinking that i had all the right ingredients at hand, i set out to reproduce ph’s tart from his book Desserts by Pierre Herme.  about 5 minutes in, i realised that i had misread some of the ingredients in his recipe.  i opted to forge ahead with a few improvisations.  i thought it turned out pretty swell nonetheless!

Tribeca Chestnut Pear Tart
(makes one 9.5 inch tart)

Pâte Sucrée About 300g, enough to make one  9-10 inch tart.  [Note: ph’s pâte sucrée recipe incorporates the usage of almond flour]
Poached Pears 2.5 to 3 poached pears. [Note: ph uses fresh pears in his tart]
Sour Cream or Crème Fraiche ½ cup
Chestnut Puree 1/2 cup
Chestnut Spread 3 tbsp
Rum 1 tsp
Eggs 2 large ones
Sugar ¼ cup
Milk 1/2 cup
  1. Prepare the tart dough in a 10 inch tart ring and blind bake the tart shell for 15 minutes at 350ºF.  Allow the crust the cool to room temperature, leaving it in the tart ring.
  2. Cut and core the poached pears into 1/3 inch cubes.
  3. In a food processor, mix together the sugar, eggs, milk, sour cream, chestnut puree and chestnut spread until smoothe.
  4. Fill the tart shell with the cubed pears.  Spread them evenly on the bottom of the crust.
  5. Then, pour in the chestnut filling from the food processor
  6. Bake the tart for 45 minutes at 350ºF., or until the filling has set.
  7. Optional:  [note: i tried to do so in the picture above but it’s not really a good example of how this should look]  the tart can be finished with a phyllo dough crown. To do so, take 3 sheets of defrosted phyllo dough (i didn’t defrost my dough, and it cracked as i was taking it out of the package). Scrunch the phyllo dough into a 10 inch tart ring, working with one piece at a time.  Lightly dust (i put too much on in the picture) the the dough with confectioner’s sugar.  Bake it for 5-7 minutes until the crown is caramelized.  When the tart and phyllo crust have cooled, carefully transfer the phyllo crown to the top of the tart.

the french pear tart (tarte bourdaloue)

pear almond tart

the classic french pear tart is one of my all time favorite tarts.  fragrant, crunchy, hearty — i really think it’s the pastry embodiment of satisfaction.

like all tarts, making the french pear tart is a multi-step process:

  1. Prepare the tart dough.  You can use pate sucree, brisee or sablee.  I used pate sucree because I had some on hand. I recommend blind baking the tart shell as it ensures a crunchier crust.  To do this, roll out the tart dough, arrange it into the tart ring, and bake at 350° F for 20 minutes.  When done, take it out of the oven and let it cool.
  2. Poach the pears.  See recipe below. A single 9 inch tart requires about 2.5 to 3 pears. Or, if you really want to take a short cut, you can use canned pear halves.  Doesn’t taste as authentic but plenty of french women opt to do so.
  3. Prepare the almond cream. See recipe below
    [Note: if you’ve got the almond cream, poached pears and tart dough on hand, you can arrange this tart in 5 minutes!]
  4. Slice and core the poached pears.  Cut each poached pear in half.  Carefully remove the core, and slice each pear horizontally into 1/4 inch slices.
  5. Arrange the tart.  Spread 250g of almond cream on the bottom of the tart.  Arrange the sliced poached pears on top of the almond cream.  It’s easiest to pick up the sliced pears using an offset spatula.  Sprinkle sliced blanched almonds to cover areas where the almond cream is showing.
  6. Finally, bake the filled tart for 45-50 minutes at 350° F until the almond cream has set.
  7. With a pastry brush, coat the pears with some apricot glaze.

Poached Pears
(enough for 2 tarts)

Pears                      6 to 8 (I use bartlett or bosc)
Sugar                      2 cups
White Wine           2 cups
Water                     2 cups
Cinnamon             1 stick
Star Anise              1 stick
Lemon                    1 lemon

  1. Peel pears, leaving them whole.  Rub lemon all over the peeled pear.
  2. Add sugar to the bottom of a pot (I use a 5 quart dutch oven).
  3. Add enough water to just cover the sugar.
  4. Boil the sugar water until the sugar just begins to turn a light golden brown.  (Watch the sugar carefully because it will easily burn)
  5. Add in remaining water, wine, cinnamon, star anise, and juice from remaining lemon.
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn heat down to a simmer.
  7. Carefully drop in the pears.  You may need to add more water to the pot until the pears are all submerged in the liquid.
  8. Allow the pears to simmer until just softened.  About 30 min to 1 hour, depending on your pears.  Do not overcook as the pears will become too mushy to work with.

Almond Cream
(adapted from the french culinary institute; enough cream for 2 tarts)

Butter                      165g @ room temperature
Sugar                       165g
Almond Flour        165g
Eggs                         2
Corn Starch           20g

  1. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  I use a paddle attachment. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
  2. Add in almond flour and continue to mix until smooth.
  3. Incorporate eggs 1 at a time.
  4. Lastly, add in corn starch.  Mix until well-combined.

as easy as apple tart

IMG_2361i did some etymology on the phrase “as easy as apple pie” this weekend.  if you’ve ever made a pie, especially the first time, you’ll probably be in agreement that there’s nothing easy about making pie.  in fact, many other baked goods, like brownies, muffins, cupcakes, are far easier to make than pie.  on top of that, pies and tarts are typically rustic affairs, unlike cakes that are typically associated with special occasions. they are something that you’re supposed to be able to just throw together without much effort.  i can whip out a cake any day.  i can’t, however, whip out an apple tart without at least a day of planning. tarts are a multi-step process and a labour of love.

the french apple tart is like an american apple pie primped and pressed into a pair of haute couture denim jeans — they are  jeans just a bit nicer. the french apple tart is less gooey, less sweet with apples fanned out on display in impossibly thin slices. It’s still unmistakably rustic but in a marie antoinette’s petit hameau kind of way. I can’t, however, imagine making apple tarts/pies in any other way.

Apple Tart (a 5 step process)


  • tart shell:  you can use any tart shell you have on hand, although it’s typically made with pate brisee. i used pate sucree in the picture above.
  • apple compote
  • apples for fanning
  • note: there’s a lot of peeling and coring of apples involved. if you can’t be bothered, this really isn’t the recipe for you.

Step 1

Prepare tart shell and let rest for several hours.

Step 2

Roll-out tart dough and line the tart ring.  Place in freezer and let chill while oven is heating.  Blind bake the tart shell for about 30 minutes at 350°F or until the shell is golden brown.   When done, take the shell out of the oven and set aside.

Step 3

Make apple compote.  Peel and core 2.5 apples (golden delicious is best).  Cut the apples into 1/4 inch cubes.  Place apples and the juice from half a lemon into a sauce pan.  Add in about 1/4 cup of sugar and a vanilla bean (split and scraped).  Cook over medium heat until the apples have softened and the juice has mostly evaporated. Take off heat and set aside.

Step 4

Prepare apples for the top of the tart.  Peel and core 2-3 apples. As soon as you’re done peeling the apples, rub lemon all over the apples to prevent them from turning brown. Slice eat apple in half and carefully take out the rest of the core.  Rub lemon over the inside of the apple as well. With the interior of the apple face down on a cutting board, cut apple across its width into the thinnest slices possibly.  It’s easiest to do this with a paring knife.  You should also keep the cut apples together so as to form their original apple shape.

Step 5

Arrangement. Evenly spread the apple compote into the bottom of the tart shell.  It should completely cover the bottom of the shell in a 1/2 inch thick layer.  Pick up the slices apple halves and fan them out on top of the apple compote, until the tart is completely covered.

When done, sprinkle some sugar on top of the apple slices.  You can also drizzle some burnt butter on top of the slices for extra flavour.

Bake in oven at 350°F for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the apples are caramelized. After baking, you can also glaze the apples with some apricot syrup for extra shine (optional).

maple leaf crusted sweet potato tart

IMG_2359 i had some extra sweet potatoes left over so i decided to transform my sweet potato cheesecake recipe into a tart. i also spied my fall leaf and acorn cookie cutters from the corner of my eye and got the idea to decorate the top of the cart with some leaf and acorn cut-outs. it looks much prettier this way, and hides my well uneven hand in spreading out the sweet potato filling evenly across the pie.

the tart crust and cut-outs are constructed using a basic pâte sucrée recipe that i got from the french culinary institute.

here’s how i did it:

Maple Leaf Crusted Sweet Potato Tart
(makes 1 9-inch tart)

  • 1 sweet potato cheesecake filling recipe from sweet potato cheesecake recipe http://wp.me/pCYO5-2v
  • About 1/3 + a bit more of the pâte sucrée dough recipe below
  • Flour for dusting
  • Sugar for sprinkling
  1. Roll out tart dough over a floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick
  2. Carefully transfer dough to a 9-inch tart ring set over parchment paper.  It’s easiest to transfer the dough if you re-roll it up around your rolling pin and then unfurl it
  3. Brush off excess flower on tart dough with a pastry brush
  4. Adhere the tart dough to the bottom and against the sides of the tart ring to ensure a tight fit.  You want 90 degree angles on the bottom of the tart.
  5. Pinch off excess dough.
  6. Transfer to freezer and chill for at least 20 minutes.
  7. Do not throw away the excess dough.  You need it to make the top.  Wrap the excess dough in plastic and set aside in the refrigerator.
  8. Prepare filling as per sweet potato cheesecake recipe
  9. Spread filling even in tart shell
  10. Roll out the excess tart dough until 1/4 inch thick.
  11. Using a cookie cutter, cut out enough pieces until the top of the tart is covered.  I had to re-roll the excess dough several times to cover the top of the tart
  12. Sprinkle the top of the tart with sugar
  13. Bake in oven at 350°F for 45 minutes
  14. Remove from oven and cool

Pâte Sucrée
(makes 3 tarts, adapted from french culinary institute)

Cake Flour                           500g
Confectioner’s Sugar          125g
Butter                                    250g
Eggs                                            3

  1. Beat butter using paddle attachment in stand mixer until it is soft and creamy.
  2. Add sugar to butter mixture and continue to beat until it is light and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs one at a time into the mixture until well incorporated.
  4. Turn the mixer down to the lowest setting and add cake flour.  Beat until the mixture just comes together to form a dough.  Do not overbeat, as it encourages the develop of gluten which causes a chewy crust.
  5. Form the dough into a flat disc and wrap in plastic.
  6. Allow dough to rest for at least 2 hours before using.  It can stay refrigerated for 3-4 days and frozen for several months.