Sunday, June 20, 2010

Summer Solstice Tarts

It seems incredibly appropriate to celebrate summer solstice in sunny, warm California. It is the longest day of the year, in a good way.

This year I began the day like another special day, by making pastry dough. This pastry dough is a recipe from my newly-acquired Good to the Grain by Kate Boyce. I have been hearing very good things about this book for a while. I have made her scones twice and loved them, so it did not take long in the bookstore to realize I must have this book. The photography is amazing, the grain descriptions intuitive and insightful, and as I have already discovered, the recipes really are fabulous. I highly recommend it.

I had to try her cornmeal pastry dough first. It looked sunny and warm like a midsummer's day. And I happen to be very partial to cornmeal. It crunches slightly, is naturally sweet, and goes spectacularly with fruit. Ms. Boyce is a former pastry chef at Spago and Campanile, so taste and texture are very important factors to food. Her crust recipe is "practically perfect in every way" as-is, but I made a little tweak anyway. Just a little. The result is a crust that is mostly corn, bakes up crisp and tender, sweet, buttery, and has a lovely cornmeal crunch. Ok, the crust is exactly the way every butter and cornmeal combination should. It is just so nice to have it in a crust.

This time I just sliced up a couple of apricots and grabbed a handful of boysenberries, with a sprinkling of blond sugar, a dash of cinnamon and a few grates of nutmeg, there were suddenly tarts! I ate mine standing up in the kitchen between baby-chasings (he walks now). Delightful. There are many possibilities for this dough though. Kate suggests using the dough for a larger tart, or just rolling it into simple cookies. I also image a summer quiche, with tomatoes, basil, and goat cheese.

Cornmeal Tart Dough (adapted from Good to the Grain, by Kate Boyce)

1 cup corn flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 c plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 egg yolks

Sift dry ingredients into the bowl of a standing mixer, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.

Add the butter, and mix on low with the paddle attachment. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the butter is as course as cornmeal. Add the heavy cream and the egg yolks and mix until combined. The dough should become one mass when squeezed between your fingers. This dough is best shaped right after making, as it hardens when refrigerated. If it is refrigerated first, let it come to room temperature before handling.

To shape tarts, divide the dough into 10 equal pieces. Flatten the dough with your hand into a rough circle about 5 inches in diameter on a lightly floured work surface. Use more flour if anything gets sticky. For an elegant finish, gently flatten the outer edge in a downward fashion, making it thinner than the rest of the dough.

Spoon about 1/4 cup filling into the center of the dough. Fold the edges toward the compote and up, to create a ruffled edge. (This is the tricky part, and if you have a toddler that makes making tarts an all-day affair, keep in mind this is a rustic, handmade tart, and my tarts were practically melting by the time I got them in the freezer...and they were still fabulous!)

Carefully transfer the tart to a plate or baking sheet. Continue with remaining dough. Slite the shaped tarts into the freezer to rest and garden for at least 1 hour, or up to 2 weeks if wrapped tightly in plastic.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Transfer the tarts onto the baking sheets.

Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the edges of the tarts are brown and the fruits in bubbly and thick. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

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