The French tartine is a slice of buttered bread topped with confiture, cheese or any fresh product. The name alone elicits moments of leisure with a perfect slice of country bread, confiture, a seductive cheese or well-cured meat. A traditional breakfast favorite or a popular selection for the cheese course, the tartine is simple, yet versatile and delightful.
This tartine is prepared with the elements of a cheese course in mind. Traditionally, the cheese course consists of a selection of various cheeses served after the main course of a meal and before dessert. The classic elements of a cheese course include a rustic, earthen rye and wheat-based bread; salted butter; confiture or chutney; cheese and fruit.
For this tartine, use Alsatian beer bread spread with salted butter, Fourme d'Ambert (a blue cheese) and fruit and nut jam derived from a recipe from Christine Ferber, a master jam maker and pastry chef. Top with apple salad and mustard and walnut vinaigrette. This make up triggers several taste senses: bitter, salty, sweet and sour.
The dark, well-baked crust of the beer bread provides the bitter accents necessary to balance the tartine. The butter, lightly mixed with flakes of sea salt, gently mingles with the delicate creaminess of the Fourme d'Ambert. The sweet fruit and nut jam combines elegant spices, such as cinnamon and anise, with dried pears, figs, dates and nuts in a quince-based gelée. Finally, a salad of slightly bitter baby radish greens and juliennes of apples mixed with a vinaigrette of mustard, vinegar and walnut oil completes the tartine.
This combination may be seen in restaurants as a plated course or it can be a finger sandwich. It also make a great hors d'oeuvre for receptions, catering or tea trays. The tartine makes an excellent addition to celebrations and is sure to please your guests' palates. Substitute these ingredients with local confitures, cheeses and artisan breads to garner additional interest from your customers.
To shape the bread, roll the dough pieces into 4-in. wide by 1/2-in. thick rectangles. Let the dough proof for one hour.
Combine the beer mixture ingredients, and brush it on the shaped loaves.
Dust the unbaked loaves with rye flour.
Cut the baked beer bread into 1/4-in. thick slices.
Spread salted butter on the bread slices.
Place a small amount of the fruit and nut jam onto each slice‥
Garnish with Fourme d'Ambert. Toss the apple julienne and salad lightly in vinaigrette, and place onto the tartine.
Chef John Kraus, pastry chef and instructor at The French Pastry School at City Colleges of Chicago teaches his students the art of pastry that includes advanced bread techniques. In 2005 and 2006, Chef Kraus was named one of the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in the United States by a national magazine. For more information on The French Pastry School, visit www.frenchpastryschool.com.