Exploring Tarts

Two of the cookbooks I have drooled over several times are Pastry by Michel Roux, and Sweet and Savory Tarts by Eric Kayser.  I finally broke down and bought the Michel Roux book.  I have another cookbook by Michel Roux (Michel Roux’s Finest Desserts), and it is very informative, in fact it can be used like a self taught course.

I love finding special purpose baking pans, and had a long rectangular tart pan, inspired by a picture in the Eric Kayer book,  in my baking cupboard that I had never used.  I decided to try a Michel Roux pastry recipe and also to do a gluten free version for Greg.

For the dough I used Michel’s tart pie dough, which he says is known as pâte a foncer (p. 23).  It has egg and a little sugar in it.  The dough works up beautifully and is very easy to work with after a short rest in the fridge.  For the gluten free version I used the same recipe, but my gluten free flour mix and fresh ground buckwheat flour.  I am finding that buckwheat flour behaves well, and has good binding qualities so not as much xanthum gum is needed.  I will post the gluten free version after I  make it one more time to test the recipe as I was just throwing in flour and had not measured very carefully.  In the taste department, the gluten free version worked out very well, and Greg was pleased that it was not so strong that chewing it felt like exercise like some of my other gluten free pastry attempts.

My French amie Martine makes very nice tarts, and what I have learned in watching her is that she puts a lot of vegetables in an artistic arrangement on the bottom, then fills it with the egg mixture.  She uses less liquid mix that what I have usually used, and sometimes some cheese such as chèvre.  In a sense, the egg is really just the binder that holds everything together rather than the main attraction.  I decided that Matine’s method is what I would try, so I cooked up some somewhat sad asparagus that had been forgotten during the holidays, and also caramelized some sweet onions.  The rectangular tart took a lot of pastry, and I had to fill it make the dough in two sections and patch it.  It was also so awkward to hold that I ended up filling it in with the egg mixture directly in the oven.  This worked well, and amazingly there were no spills added to the already splotchy oven floor (I know I know, I have a self clean oven, but it still doesn’t always get cleaned when it should).  The egg mixture is whatever you usually use for quiche, however one little trick I have been using is to add about 1 T of cornstarch for each cup of milk.  This makes the egg filling a little firmer, but make sure you mix it very well before filling the tarts since corn starch sinks fast.

The tarts were consumed on New Year’s morning, and were still delicious 2 days later as leftovers.  I think you will like the Michel Roux book, I plan to try some other recipes in it soon.  It is also just nice eye candy, and very informative in terms of the depth of why things are done in certain ways.

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