Pick a Tart, Any Tart
With a foolproof crust recipe, these classic French tarts are a breeze to prepare. Mother's Day has never been sweeter.
In the kitchen, there’s much to be learned from the French, and this Mother’s Day, I want to whip up one of the most iconic French-style pastries: the tart. The idea of piecrusts puts me into a panic, while the classic pâte brisée (PAHT bree-ZAY) just rolls off my pastry board and puffs up buttery and crunchy.
Don’t ask me why, but regular piecrusts are a disaster for me. They are either too wet and sticky or too crumbly and impossible to roll into a continuous crust. But the French version, made with butter and a bit of sugar, seems to be foolproof. Plus, the buttery taste and flaky texture are perfect for both sweet and savory fillings.
You can make this recipe in a regular pie pan, but because the possibilities for fillings are endless, consider investing in a tart pan, which has removable sides and bottoms that make for easier serving and a classic look.
The first recipe here is for pâte brisée crust. The second is for a classic French apple tart, a welcome treat in any season served with a small scoop of ice cream or a dollop of sweetened whipped cream. Additionally, there are recipes for tarts filled with lemon whipped cream and topped with colorful fresh fruit and for a nut tart flavored with chocolate and candied orange peel.
makes two 9-inch crusts
|French Apple Tart
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter
1/3 cup ice water
Measure the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 3 or 4 times to combine. Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces and add to the processor. Pulse briefly about 10 times until the butter is incorporated but you can still see pea-sized pieces. Add 1/4 cup of the water and pulse another 10 times. Add a little more water and pulse a few more times if the mixture seems too dry.
Test the dough by squeezing some of it between your fingers. If it forms a ball, it is done. If it still crumbles, it needs a few more drops of water and a few more pulses. This should not take more than 30 seconds total. Dump the mixture out onto the board and squeeze it together into a ball. Separate the ball into 2 pieces and flatten each into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1/2 hour. (At this point you can actually freeze the dough for future use.)
Lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough out to the required shape and size. Roll the dough over your pin and transfer it to the tart or pie pan. Trim to within 1 inch of the edge and fit into the pan, doubling the dough along the edge. Crimp it into the edge with your thumb and finger. At this point you can put the crust into the freezer for a few minutes while you prepare the filling. This will allow the dough to relax and will minimize shrinkage during baking.
1 9-inch pâte brisée crust, raw
3 Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter, thinly sliced
1/2 cup apple jelly
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Peel and core the apples and cut them into thin slices. Arrange the slices in your pan over the crust so that they overlap slightly and fill the pan. Sprinkle with the sugar and dot with the slices of butter. Place onto a baking tray to catch any spills and bake for 45 minutes until the crust is cooked and the apples are golden-brown. Heat the apple jelly in a small pan and brush onto the tart while it is still warm. Serve with ice cream or a dollop of sweetened whipped cream.
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup lemon curd
Fresh raspberries, strawberries, kiwi, etc.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Divide the dough into 4 portions and roll out to fit individual tart pans. Press pieces of aluminum foil or parchment paper into each tart and fill with pie weights or beans. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the crusts are golden-brown. Remove the foil and weights and bake for another few minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Whip the cream until soft peaks form. In another bowl, beat the lemon curd with a few tablespoons of the whipped cream until it is soft. Fold the lemon/cream mixture into the remaining whipped cream. When the tart shells are completely cool, fill each with the mixture and top with fresh fruit in decorative arrangements.
1 9-inch pâté brisée crust, raw
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup chocolate bits
2 tablespoons candied orange peels, chopped fine
1/2 cup pecan halves
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Beat the egg and sugar until frothy. Stir in the melted butter, salt, corn syrup and almond extract. Pour into a prepared pâté brisée crust. Sprinkle the chocolate bits and candied orange peel evenly. Top decoratively with the pecan halves. Bake for 45 minutes until the crust is cooked and the center just barely jiggles. Cool on a wire rack.