Tag Archives: Fruit

Simple Fruit Tarts

24 Aug

tart

watercolor by Frances Newcombe

This post should actually be entitled Fruit Tarts for Dummies…  or rather, Fruit Tarts for A Dummy. Because, listen, if I can do this … I, me, someone with absolutely no patience for baking or dough or measuring exactly or any of that silliness… if I can do this, you can do this. And you will be so happy.

Fruit trees are one of the many benefits of living in Southern California. Not just fruit trees, but bountiful fruit trees that need very little upkeep. I am as bad at gardening as I am at baking (that patience issue) yet I have in my yard lemon trees, orange trees, apricot trees, a pomegranate tree, a kumquat tree, avocado trees, a macadamia nut tree and a glorious fig tree that goes crazy in season. Consequently, I’m always looking for ways to use the fruit.

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Prepping Fruit Tarts

I’ve written before about Patricia Wells, a chef whose writing and cooking had an incredible influence on my life. In her book At Home In Provence, there’s a gorgeous Apricot-Honey-Almond Tart you can also make with figs. It looked so incredible, and so easy, I had to give it a try. My first attempt turned out so well I kept making these tarts over the summer, in different variations, to master the tarts and see which fruits worked best. And so I give you below my slightly tweaked take on her recipe.

Did I mention how %@$# incredible they taste? Wow, are they wonderful. This recipe slays everyone by both beauty and taste. Anyone you serve the tart will have no idea how simple it is (and there’s no reason to let them know!) They’ll look at you like you had Patricia fed-ex the tart from her kitchen in France. Because it’s best served room temperature, it’s perfect not only for your home but to bring to a picnic or to a potluck. My goodness, these taste good. And they are light as well! While gorgeous, this tart is the opposite of a heavy, dense dessert. But you get all the pleasure just the same. 

Apricot Tart

apricot tart, right out of the oven

ONE NOTE: Hearty fruits such a stone fruits or figs are best with this recipe. The blueberry and raspberry versions I tried tasted great but those soft fruits started to break down into mush by the time they were finished cooking.

***!!! As an added treat this week, my beloved friend Frances Newcombe did some art for the post, including a downloadable PDF of the recipe – click here to download what you see below.

SIMPLE SUMMER FRUIT TARTS

(adapted from Patricia Wells’ At Home In Provence)
INGREDIENTS
Use a 9 inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom or 3 individual tart pans (4-5 inches)
The Crust:
 
A tab or two of butter for preparing tart pan
 
8 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
 
1/2 cup sugar
 
1/4 t pure almond extract
 
1/4 t Mexican Vanilla
 
pinch of fine sea salt
 
1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour (I like King Arthur for baking)
 
2 T finely ground raw almonds (or some almond flour, though I like the homemade here)
 
The Filling:
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
 
1 large egg, lightly beaten
 
1/2 t almond extract
 
1/2 t Mexican Vanilla extract
 
2 T raw high quality honey, such as lavender or orange blossom
 
1 T ground almonds
 
about 1 1/2 lbs fresh apricots, pitted and halved (do not peel) or figs, halved, or any stone fruit such as peaches or plums halved (or a combo!)
 
Powdered Sugar for garnish, if desired
DIRECTIONS
 
1. Preheat the oven to 375º
 
2. Butter the bottom and sides of the tart pan and set aside (just rub every bit of the surface with butter, just enough to cover)
 
3. In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar and gently combine. (A wooden spoon works great here.) Add the extracts, salt and flour and stir to combine. Do not let form into a ball. It should be very moist with the butter completely incorporated.
 
4. Spread the dough out over the bottom and sides of the tart pan. I like to start with the sides, using my fingers to edge the dough up the sides and then over the bottom.  It should be pretty thin. Go easy, don’t overwork the dough. “Don’t treat it like you hate it, treat it like you love it.”
 
5. Bake until the dough is a little puffy, about 12 to 15 minutes. It sill suddenly start to puff up a little – that’s the time to pull it out. Sprinkle some of the ground almonds over the crust, which will prevent it from becoming soggy. It also adds more almond flavor, yum.)
Tart Crust

tart crust out of the oven

 
6. While the tart shell bakes, prepare the cream. Combine cream, egg, extracts and honey. Whisk to blend. Whisk in the almonds.
 
7. Starting at the edge, place your halved fruit around the tart pan, creating more and more circles as you get closer to the center. You just want to make sure the cut side is facing up and the fruit tilts slightly downward. Have fun with your placement. I usually put a final half, straight up, in the center.
 
8. Pour the cream evenly over the fruit. Get it not just on top but in between so the tart fills up.
Tart before oven

tart with cream, ready for the oven

9. Bake in the oven until the filling is firm (but not solid, like a cake) and the tart dough is golden. **You will begin to smell the wondrous smells of the fruit, cream and pastry. That’s when you need to really start being aware of the tart. It’s almost done. 
 
10. When finished, let rest on a rack to cool (I just rest mine on the raised levels of the gas burners on my stove)
minitarts done

mini-tarts, right out of the oven

 
When cool, lift the tart pan and tap the bottom gently. You may be surprised how easily it pops out and you end up with a gorgeous tart. If this makes you nervous, you may also cut and serve the tart from pan itself. Give it a try, though. It always works and it still tastes great if it breaks apart!
***For this beautiful downloadable version of the recipe, click here.
tart_recipe

Cookbook Night

12 Sep

My good friend Tiffiny Federico is a great cook. She’s a better cook than I, frankly. Tiffiny is also a schoolteacher. When in school, she has very little time. About 5 or 6 years ago, bemoaning our inability to spend quality time together, we came up with an idea: have a cooking day where we could hang out in the kitchen, cook some food, drink some wine and catch up. 

We decided if we were going to cook all day, we might as well try all new recipes. Tiff and I give each other cookbooks at Christmas. One of the cookbooks we exchanged that year was The Gift Of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock. Neither of us had cooked from it, so we decided to cook solely from that cookbook. Because we were going to end up with a lot of food, we invited some friends over that night for a casual dinner. Everyone could try out the dishes we’d made for the first time.

“Cookbook Night” was born.

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View from the backyard into the kitchen.

It was such a hit, we did it again. And again. We now do it once or twice a year and have cooked our way through some wonderful books such as Sunday Suppers with Lucques, The Mozza Cookbook, At Home in Provence, etc. Once we land on a cookbook, Tiff and I get together a week early (and make dinner, natch) to pick our recipes from the book we want to explore. Usually we pick 4-6 recipes each, choosing a good variety from appetizers, entrees, sides and dessert. We do some prep before the actual event, then the day of Tiffiny comes over in the morning, we cook all day and have people over that night to sample. There is no fear of anything going wrong, every dish is new and no one cares how it all turns out. We’ve had some incredible dinners, however.

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I highly recommend this, it’s a fun way to try a bunch of dishes, adding new winners to your repertoire. And you can have a great time with good friends. We now open the kitchen to everyone late afternoon in case anyone wants to sous chef or hang out with us as we cook.  The rest show up around 6 and we dive in. The entire day and night is a blast.

It also creates one hell of a mess. But that’s fun, too.

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This summer we actually had two cookbook nights. We started in June with Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

Jersusalem

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