It’s here! It’s here! Spring is finally here!
(Knock on wood)
I spent the better part of today basking in the sun, reading up on some of my fav cookbooks and menu planning for the next zillion months. There’s something about the sunshine and warm weather that just inspires me. I’m dreaming of caprese salads, juicy steaks hot of the grill topped with blue cheese, fruity drinks with fancy straws, burgers with toppings like spinach artichoke dip or fried avocado, oh and copious amounts of homemade ice cream – that’s a must. I have so many ideas for summer dishes that my head is in a constant spin, not knowing where to start first.
So for today’s post I wanted something that screams spring, something light, something healthy – scratch that, we’ve had enough healthy around here lately, its time for a little indulgence.
I thought about what really makes me feel most like summer – err, getting ahead of myself sorry – what makes me feel most like spring. After some very intense contemplation, my thoughts kept drifting back to Ina’s goat cheese tart I used to make a million times a year when I dabbled in a little catering for a brief moment. It was one of my favorite things to make and something that was always well-received.
I’ve changed it up quite a bit here, adapting to what I had around the house and then adding a little spring element with the addition of plump heirloom cherry tomatoes.
This starts off with homemade pastry. – If you want, you can also use frozen and thawed puffy pastry or store-bought pie dough, but there is nothing and I mean nothing like homemade crust – and this one is no exception. It’s flaky, flavorful AND most importantly, doesn’t shrivel down to nothing after being baked – and between you and I, it’s easy to make too.
The choice of fat is an ongoing debate in the pastry world; some whole-heartedly believe butter is the only way to go, while others believe shortening or even lard is the only acceptable choice. I like a combination of the two – butter for flavor and shortening for flakiness.
Now, I want you to listen carefully to what I’m about to say… I PROMISE you will have a perfect crust every time if you follow one cardinal rule – keep ingredients cold and chill every step of the way.
So keeping that in mind, we start out by cutting COLD butter and shortening (the shortening actually doesn’t have to be cold) into flour and a little salt. Then mix in one egg yolk (to prevent shrinkage) and five tablespoons ICE COLD water. Knead just until the dough comes together – it’s ok if there are a few pieces that don’t combine, they will once the dough chills. Form the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill for 20 minutes.
Next, we roll the dough. Since you really don’t want to add anymore flour to the crust, I like to put it between two sheets of plastic wrap and then roll. It’s super easy and requires practically no cleanup – and I’ll take that whenever I can.
In the middle of my pastry making I realized that I misplaced my tart pan – yet another item lost in the process of moving. So I had to improvise and use a spring-form pan, worked just as well, thank goodness. You could also bake in a pie pan; it just won’t come out in one beautiful piece.
Ok, so we place the crust in whatever pan of your choosing – make sure you grease it up first – and do not stretch the dough! Gently fit it to the pan, if you try to stretch it, all it will do is shrink back down while baking. Then back to chill – in the freezer this time, for about 15 minutes. After she’s done freezing, we partially bake it so that the bottom crust isn’t soggy after adding the filling.
Now, for the best part…the filling… tangy goat cheese, creamy mascarpone cheese, chives, garlic powder and a little salt are mixed together until super smooth. Heavy cream is used to thin it out and then two eggs are mixed in to bind the whole thing together.
Everything is poured into the partially baked crust and thrown into the oven for about 35 minutes until set – very similar to the baking process of a cheesecake. Let everything come to room temperature while you prepare the tomato topping.
I worship cherry tomatoes – they’re so cute and tiny and juicy… But do you know what’s even better than cherry tomatoes?? Heirloom cherry tomatoes. Aren’t they gorgeous? I spotted these beauties at Trader Joe’s and knew immediately that I was going to use them here.
You can use do this a couple of ways, but all methods involve cutting the tomatoes in half.
• Halfway through baking, layer the tomatoes artfully around the tart. Finish baking – you might need to add on five minutes or so to the baking time.
• Toss the halved tomatoes with two tablespoons balsamic vinegar, let set while the tart bakes and then layer on when the tart is done cooling
• Or (and this is what I did) layer all the tomatoes on the tart after its done baking and then drizzle some super thick balsamic vinegar over the whole thing and sprinkle with a little kosher salt.
- 1 tart crust (See recipe below) or store-bough puff pastry or pie crust
- 7 ounces goat cheese, softened
- ¼ + 1/8 cup mascarpone cheese, softened
- Scant ¼ cup chopped chives
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup heavy creamy
- 2 cups heirloom cherry tomatoes (regular is also fine), sliced in half
- 2 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
- 1 ½ cups flour
- ¼ teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons butter, cut into tiny cubes
- 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
- 1 egg yolk
- 5-6 tablespoons ice water
- In the bottom of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine goat cheese, mascarpone chives, garlic powder and salt until smooth and creamy. Add eggs and cream, mix until combined, making sure to scrape sides of the bowl during.
- Pour into prepared tart shell. Bake for 35 minutes until slightly brown on top and set. (It will still jiggle a tiny bit). Let cool to room temperature.
- Artfully arrange halved tomatoes on cooled tart. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons thick balsamic vinegar and then sprinkle with salt. You can also marinate the tomatoes in the balsamic vinegar before to soak up more flavor.
- In a large bowl, combine flour and salt.
- Using a pastry cutter or fork, cut the butter and shortening into the flour until the mixture looks like it has tiny peas throughout.
- Add ice water and egg yolk. Working quickly, knead the dough until it comes together – although it’s ok if there are a few scraps.
- Flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
- Grease a 9 inch tart or spring-form pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- When dough has chilled, place between two sheets of plastic wrap. Roll the dough until it’s large enough to fit into the tart pan.
- Transfer dough to pan. If you are using a spring form pan you only want the dough to go up about an inch on the sides. Cut off any excess dough.
- Place a buttered piece of foil over the dough and fill with beans, rice or pasta. Bake the tart shell for 20 minutes. Cool.
- *Filling is liberally adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot In Paris Cookbook
Someone wanted some… Bad boy…