It’s been a long time since I took part in a food blogger event, but I couldn’t resist joining in with this month’s cheekily titled ‘Topless Tarts’ Monthly Mingle, hosted by one of my favouritest bloggers, Jeanne of Cook Sister!
For me, a homemade tart is all about the pastry. There’s no end of clever and tasty fillings for a tart, and shops have sold most of them at some time or another, but where a homemade tart can beat shop-bought hands down is with carefully made, fresh from the oven, tender, crumbly pastry – there’s just nothing to beat it! The key to good pastry is twofold: keep everything cold, and work fast. For the serious cook with time on their hands, I would advise a one-to-one session with an expert, exploring all the nuances of the words ‘chopping in’, ‘pecking’ and ‘frasiering’ – pâtissiere terms for the three delicate manoeuvres used to create top quality pastry in restaurants. For the more everyday, I would recommend a Magimix. The food processor will work far faster than you ever can, and by not touching the pastry yourself you avoid the pastry getting hot and greasy. You can even chill the blade in advance (if you’re that organised!) for even better results.
With most types of pastry, chilling it before rolling, and again after lining the tart tin, protects against shrinking during cooking. The hefty amount of Parmesan in this crust means some shrinking is unavoidable as the cheese melts, so make sure you use a deep tart tin and line it all the way to the top, so when it is cooked it will still be several centimetres deep.
Roasted baby plum tomato & pesto tart with a Parmesan crust
For the filling:
250g baby plum tomatoes, halved
300ml double cream
75g Comté or Gruyère cheese, grated
3 egg yolks
2 tbsp fresh basil pesto
You will also need a deep-sided fluted tart tin 20cm in diameter
1. Put the diced butter and flour in the bowl of the food processor with a pinch of salt and pulse briefly until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg and Parmesan and process just long enough for the dough to come together in a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and flatten into a disc. Chill for an hour.
2. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5/190˚C. Roll out the pastry and line the tin, gently easing the pastry into all the flutes and curves. Trim any excess with a sharp knife (do not bin it!), cover the tart loosely with clingfilm and chill for another hour or until very firm.
3. Meanwhile, toss the halved tomatoes with a little olive oil and plenty of seasoning. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast for 35 minutes until lightly browned and shrivelled but not black. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
4. Remove the clingfilm from the tart, line with a cartouche of baking paper and baking beans/rice/coins and bake for 35 minutes until golden, removing the paper and weights for the last 10 minutes to allow the base to cook through. If (horror of horrors) your pastry has cracked or split, use some of the reserved raw pastry to patch the cracks otherwise your filling will leak out later. Allow to cool slightly.
4. Turn the oven down to Gas Mark 4/180˚C. In a jug, mix together the cream, egg yolks and cheese with a pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper. Spread the pesto over the base of the tart, then gently pour on the creamy filling. Arrange the roasted tomatoes on top, and bake for 40-45 minutes or until the filling is just set but still has a little bit of wobble to it at the centre. Cover the tart with the discarded cartouche if the pastry is getting too dark. Allow to cool slightly then serve and devour greedily.