21 June 2014

Sweet & Savory Tarts

My last two-week rotation for first quarter was in Tarts. It was my only rotation with the French chef, and my only solo rotation (no partners). It was also my most relaxed, educational and fun rotation. I loved working by myself; even though I had to work hard to produce all the tarts on time, I liked being the only one responsible for the work and being in control of the schedule. My classmates had reported various levels of fear & trembling in working with the French chef (he is very particular about things being done The Correct Way and is not tolerant of errors that cause waste), but I got along very well with him and learned a lot. It might help that everything I made was edible, and I didn't spill, burn, drop or otherwise waste anything.

The first week of the rotation is sweet tarts, using a tart dough called Pâte Sucrée. This dough is made from pastry flour, granulated sugar, butter, egg yolks and cream, and it's about 25% sugar and 67% butter (in ratio to the total amount of flour). It's a very soft, sweet dough, almost like a cooky. It's mixed in a stand mixer with a paddle. The first day, I mixed the dough and put it in the fridge to chill, then made a batch of lemon curd. On the second day, I rolled out four 9 inch tarts (we don't use pie pans, but instead use tart rings on parchment-covered baking pans) and learned how to form the tarts - it's harder than you'd think with this dough because it is so rich and soft, and has to be handled gently. I filled these tarts with the lemon curd and put them in the fridge to chill.


The third day, I baked the lemon tarts and garnished them with thinly-sliced lemons that had been soaked 48 hours in a syrup made of 2:1 sugar:water. The lemons were left over from another student's cake project. Nothing is wasted in this bake shop! The fourth day, I rolled two tarts worth of dough using the sheeter, and mixed up a rich chocolate-orange filling. These got baked and cooled that day. The last day, I decorated the chocolate tarts by making chocolate ganache, and whipping half of it. I piped shell shapes around the edge of each tart, then poured the unwhipped ganache inside the ring of piped shells. Pretty! and very rich. I didn't make the white/dark chocolate decor - again it was some other student's chocolate practice work.

To finish up the week, I rolled the rest of the dough using the sheeter, and made a bunch (more than a dozen) of small 4 inch tarts, which I filled with the rest of the lemon curd, and decorated with orange slices and shards of white chocolate. The photo shows how the tarts are presented for sale in the pastry case.


The last week, I made a double batch of Pâte Brisée, which is more like classic American pie dough. Our recipe calls for pastry flour, butter, sugar, salt, whole eggs, and milk, and it is mixed completely by hand. The ratio of butter to flour is about 44% and sugar only 6%. It's also always rolled by hand - no sheeter. This double recipe ended up making enough dough for about 18 nine-inch tarts, though I ended up making only a dozen. I spent the second day doing a lot of prep work on vegetables for the various tarts, and ended making up three varieties: classic onion/ham, tomato/basil/roasted garlic (topped with roasted red bell pepper), and onion/mushroom cooked in a balsamic vinegar reduction. It was fun to get to do so much culinary prep work.


I learned how to roll and form the savory tarts. The dough is firmer than the sweet pastry and is a bit easier to work with. I also learned how to blind bake (pre-bake unfilled tarts) using pie beans (pinto beans, which we reuse multiple times). To blind bake, I cut parchment circles an inch or so larger than the tart ring, then put the paper in first, followed by beans. The parchment makes it easier to get the beans out after baking, and keeps the beans from making dents in the shell. This photo shows the tarts after baking:


Here is the onion/ham tart:


... and the tomato/basil tart:


... and the onion/mushroom one:


A fifth quarter student bought four of these, and I bought the other two. I was very pleased to hear from the 5th quarter student the next week that her guests loved the tarts. I loved them too, but OH they are rich - they are filled with a custard that is just heavy cream and eggs. Yummy, but a little piece goes a long way.


  1. Thanks for sharing some of the two tarts with me. I loved them both and agree that they are too rich, especially the mushroom/onion one.

  2. I am going to try reworking the tomato and the mushroom one with homemade ricotta instead of the cream/egg filling. much more digestible. The flavors were excellent, but yes, too rich for my taste.

  3. These are all beautiful! Your shell piping on the chocolate tart is fantastic. I don't think I have a steady enough hand to accomplish such neat, consistent work like that. Impressive! :)

    1. Thanks! Some of my shells looked more like hedgehogs. I took a photo of the best-looking tart, of course!