Back towards the end of July while in entertaining mode, I whipped up two tarts for dessert. Both were scarfed down so I think I succeeded in finishing our meal on a high note . Thanks to having puff pastry on hand, my time in the kitchen was eased considerably.
I had purchased frozen puff pastry from Grand Central Bakery (a Portland and Seattle favorite) a few days earlier and was letting it slowly thaw in my fridge over the weekend. By Sunday morning, the puff pastry was totally defrosted and in perfect condition to work with. Uncertain how I wanted to use the pastry, it dawned on me to use it as the crust for my tarts.
Having never made tarts using puff pastry, I was a little unsure of the steps I should follow. With a normal tart shell, pre-baking is usually recommended. So I did a quick google search to see what I needed to do to pre-bake the puff pastry without it puffing to high heavens. The best advice I found was to gently press the puff pastry into my tart pan and nest another pan, a little smaller in diameter, on top of the dough, filling that pan with beans. I did as I read and put the tart shell into the oven to pre-bake. About halfway into the baking time I peeked in the oven and cracked up laughing because the power of the puff had actually lifted the pan with beans. With the top pan aloft on a cloud of pastry, it appeared I had double decker pans in the oven. The tart shell continued to bake that way for a total of 15 minutes. It wasn’t until I removed the tart shell from the oven and it had cooled a bit, that the crust settled down. It was a sight to see. I had the same experience with the second tart crust. You may guess I am easily entertained.
I let both shells cool while preparing my fillings. For tart number one I chose lemon. Tarte au Citron to be precise; a very easy, delicious recipe featured in Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells. My only deviation from the recipe was using puff pastry instead of Pate Sablée for the crust. (Pate Sablée produces a sweeter, denser crust. It is a marvelous crust to use for a lemon tart; I just wanted to try something different.) The puff pastry worked very well, as if it were the crust meant to be. It was light, not at all soggy and it baked beautifully, leaving a tall, golden crown around the filling which gave a the tart a professional appearance. Certainly unexpected, but pleasing to see.
The other tart I made was a total experiment. I had a pint of currants in my fridge which I had planned to make into jelly or jam. Knowing the berries to be very tart I wasn’t sure if they’d be suitable as a tart filling or not. Always up for a challenge, I decided to give them a try. Lucky for me, my experiment worked. I really liked the currant tart. Judging by the way it disappeared, I think everyone else did too.
Start by either making or purchasing a high quality puff pastry. If frozen, it is best to thaw it slowly in the fridge. Start this at least a day ahead.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Gently line your tart pan with unthawed but cold pastry dough. Fit another pan inside the tart crust and fill it with beans. Bake for 15 minutes. (Be amused by the pastry’s power to rise.) Set aside to cool.
When working with puff pastry it is important to keep it from getting too warm, so if necessary, put the tart pan, covered, in the fridge for at least 30 minutes after you have prepared it for the oven. Make sure your oven is up to temperature before starting the pre-baking process.
Makes one 7& 1/2″ tart
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup creme fraiche
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons Raspberry Nectarine Jam (see June 28 blog post for recipe)
1 pint currants
1 tablespoon granulated sugar rubbed with scrapings from half a vanilla bean
Beat egg yolks with a whisk. Add the creme fraiche and 3 tablespoons of sugar.
Brush 2 tablespoons of Raspberry Nectarine Jam across the bottom of the pastry crust. Pour in the yolk/creme fraiche filling. Add 1 pint of fresh currants. The currants are too small to be arranged decoratively so I wouldn’t bother. Place the tart in the preheated oven and bake until the cream filling begins to set.* Though I thought it would take about 20-25 minutes, it was really more like 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar that you have rubbed with vanilla bean scrapings, evenly over the top of the tart. Set aside to cool.
*Since I had pre-baked the puff pastry, I made a loose foil collar to fit over the edges of the crust to keep them from getting too dark or burnt when baking the complete tart.
Tarte Au Citron
adapted from Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells
Make one 9″ tart
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons creme fraiche
5 large eggs
1 puff pastry tart shell, pre-baked and cooled
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Blend the lemon juice, sugar and creme fraiche together in a medium-sized bowl. One at a time, add the eggs, whisking well after each addition. Pour the lemon cream into the pre-baked tart shell. Bake until firm, approximately 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Serve at room temperature. Chill any leftover tart.
I enjoy making tarts but for me they are special occasion treats. When I do make them, I want them to be the real deal, using the best quality ingredients.