For individual tarts, line muffin tins with 4-oz. circles of pastry. Fill with 6 ozs. of tomatoes, and fold in the edges of the dough.
|Scoop fruit into the center of the 9-in. circle of pastry, leaving a 1 1/2-in. border. Carefully fold the border of dough over the fruit. |
More often than not, nature is able to produce close to perfect foods that require very little embellishment from bakers in order to be presented as a confection. For the most part, Americans seem to respond best to what we have defined as classics. Apple pie with vanilla ice cream, strawberry shortcake and blackberry buckles can be refined, or dressed up, but their essence is always the same-simple and perfect.
This rustic tart's combination of soft, sweet fruit and the melt-in-your-mouth flakiness of its shell will make it a favorite for many. When there are no confusing flavors or architecturally inspired garnishes to distract your customer, it is essential that you maximize natural flavors in fillings and the complementary texture of the tart shell. This rustic tart uses a very basic pie dough formula, for showcasing fruits. The keys to success for producing this tart are choosing the right ingredients and keeping them cold until baking.
For the tart shell, selecting the correct flour is the first step. Bread flour creates too much strength for an unleavened product, and cake flour results in a pastry with a mealy texture, leaving pastry flour as the appropriate choice. The low water and high fat content in this dough also help to inhibit gluten development and maintain tenderness in the product. Evenly distributed solid fat tenderizes the dough by separating the starch granules from the gluten strands. Keeping these deposits slightly smaller than dime size will separate whole sheets of dough from each other, which forms tender flakes in your pastry when the fat creates steam in the oven.
Lard produces superior flakiness in pie dough, but its reputation for being high in cholesterol and saturated fats often keeps bakers from using it. Non-emulsified, hydrogenated vegetable shortenings are a common choice for pies because of the desired plastic consistency. Butter, by far, contributes the best flavor of all the solid fats, but it softens easily and makes the dough difficult to work with. Using a blend of butter and shortening will give you a balance of flavor and plasticity.
Mix pastry dough
To make the tart dough, blend all the dry ingredients in a 20-qt. vertical mixer. Cut in the fat, using a paddle attachment, and mix until some dime size pieces remain. With the mixer running, add cold water, and mix until combined. Wrap the dough well, and refrigerate for at least one hour before sheeting. To quickly cool the dough, flatten it into a disc. After the dough has chilled, roll it to 3mm on a sheeter or to 1/8-in. thickness by hand. Cut it into eight 9-in. circles. After cutting the circles, stack the dough, separating each circle with parchment paper, and refrigerate them overnight or freeze them for up to one month.
For fruit fillings, if you decide to use very firm fruits, such as apples, cook them slightly before using in the filling because the tart is not baked long enough to soften them. Remember that sweet fruit, such as strawberries, peaches and ripe blueberries, need less sugar than tart blackberries, raspberries, rhubarb, or Granny Smith apples.
To make the filling, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and zest or spices. Add the fresh fruit to the sugar mixture, and toss to coat. Do not make the filling ahead of time because it will become runny and might cause your tarts to leak. As soon as the fruit has been tossed in the sugar mixture, scoop it into the center of the circles, leaving a 1 1/2-in. border around the outside. Carefully fold the edges of the dough in towards the fruit.
It is best to assemble the tarts directly on parchment-lined sheet pans to avoid any damage while transferring the tart from the workbench.
Refrigerate the tarts for a minimum of 30 minutes before baking to set any fat that might have begun to soften. Egg wash the crust, and sprinkle it with sanding sugar before baking at 400°F for 35 to 40 minutes.
For individual tarts, use oversized muffin tins sprayed with pan release. I like to use a tomato filling for the smaller tarts. Slice the tomatoes to 1/16-in. thickness on a mandoline or deli slicer, and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Line 3 1/2-in. muffin tins with 4 ozs. of the rustic tart dough. Fill each tart with 6 ozs. of tomato slices. Fold in the edges of the tart shell, and egg wash. Bake at 400°F for about 30 minutes. When tarts have cooled enough to handle, remove them from the muffin tins, and sprinkle chiffonade of fresh basil inside each tart.
When you want to add color and flavor to your current menu, look to nature for your inspiration. Highlight the rich flavor of various fruits, and offer customers this rustic tart for a delicious dessert or savory snack.
|Yield: 8, 9-in. tarts|
|Total appr. wt.||4||6|
|Instructions: Prepare according to article.|
|Yield: 1 tart|
|Sugar, granulated (depending on fruit)||3 to 4|
|Cinnamon, to taste|
|Lemon zest, to taste|
|Total appr. wt.||1|
Instructions: Mix dry ingredients. Add fruit, and toss to cover.
|Yield: 15, 3 1/2-in. tarts|
|Basil (for garnish)||1 bunch|
|Total appr. wt.||5||10|
|Instructions: Slice the tomatoes to 1/16-in. thickness on a mandoline or deli slicer, and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.|
|Erin Quinn is a full time instructor at the San Francisco Baking Institute. She earned a bachelor's degree in Baking and Pastry Arts from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. She has worked as the assistant to the Baking and Pastry Department's chairperson at Johnson & Wales. She also was the assistant to the Coupe du Monde Artistic Bread team member for the 2002 competition. For more information about the San Francisco Baking Institute, call 650/589-5784 or visit www.sfbi.com|