S‘tart’ up a Storm!

S‘tart’ up a Storm!

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The great thing about a tart is that you can make it anything you want: a sweet treat, a savory bite, a large pie to share or even a meal in itself. Its neutral base is what makes it so versatile in terms of application.

A tart base is something you can whip up at home, or if you want to save yourself the trouble, you can pick some up at the store. Filling them up with something delicious is just about deciding whether you want to go down the sweet or the savory path. Here are some recipes to help.

Caramel Tarts with Maple Pecan

Caramel and Maple Pecan Tarts

Ingredients:

  • Plain flour – 1 ½ cups
  • Caster sugar – 2 tbsp
  • Butter – 125gms, chilled and chopped
  • Egg yolk – 1
  • Chilled water – ½ cup

Caramel filling:

  • Caster sugar – ¾ cup
  • Thickened cream – ⅔ cup
  • Butter – 80gms, chopped

Maple pecans:

  • Pecans – ¾ cup
  • Maple syrup – 1 tbsp

Method

  1. Blend flour, sugar and butter in a processor until the mixture is as fine as breadcrumbs. Add egg yolk and 1 tablespoon chilled water to the mix and process until the dough takes form. If necessary add more chilled water. Sprinkle flour onto your kitchen counter and place the dough there. Knead the dough till it’s smooth and flatten it into a disc. Place pastry in cling wrap and refrigerate it for half an hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 200°C or 180°C fan-forced. Toss together pecans and maple syrup in a bowl. Line a baking tray with baking paper and place this mixture on the tray in a single layer. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the maple pecan is crispy and golden.
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 180°C or 160°C fan-forced. Grease 4 tart pans. These pans must be 3cm deep and have a 10-cm base. Prepare the pastry between 2 sheets of baking paper in such a way that it is 5mm thick. Cut 4 rounds from the pastry using a 13-cm round cutter. Line the pans with the cut pastries. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
  4. Place the pans on a baking tray and place baking paper over the pastry case. Weigh down the pastry with ceramic pie weights or uncooked rice. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. The edges of the pastry must be light golden. Set aside to cool.
  5. Over medium-high heat, place sugar in a frying pan. Do not stir while the sugar is cooking for 5 to 6 minutes or until it turns golden. Lower heat and add cream. Stir as it cooks for 3 to 4 minutes. When the mixture is smooth, remove the pan from heat. Add butter and stir. Let it cool for 5 minutes and pour the caramel into the pastries. Refrigerate until set or let it cool overnight. When serving, top the tarts with maple pecans.

 

Pear and Blue Cheese Tart

 Pear and blue cheese tarts.

Ingredients:

  • Frozen puff pastry – one 9-inch square, defrosted
  • Blanched almonds – 250gms
  • Sugar – ¼ cup
  • Pears – 1 to 2, unpeeled, stemmed and thinly sliced
  • Honey, for drizzling
  • Blue cheese – 50 to 100gms
  • Egg white – 1, beaten with a small drizzle of water

Method

  1. Preheat the oven at 204°C. Using a paring knife, make a line half an inch away from the edge of the rectangular tart. The half inch serves as a border. Poke holes inside the border using a fork. This ensures that the dough will remain flat as it cooks while the border will puff to create a lip for the tart.
  2. In a food processor, grind almonds, sugar and ½ tablespoon of water to make a paste. Layer the puff pastry (inside the border) with the paste.
  3. Over the almond paste, place the pear slices and drizzle with honey. Grate blue cheese and sprinkle over this.
  4. Brush your unbaked border with a beaten egg. Bake your pastry for 25 to 30 minutes or until it is puffed and golden brown. Cut it into squares once it is cooled.

 

Strawberry Tart

 Strawberry tarts.

For the crust:

  • All-purpose flour – 1¼ cups, spooned and leveled, plus a little more for handling dough
  • Cold unsalted butter – ½ cup (1 stick), cut into small pieces
  • Sugar – ⅓ cup
  • Salt – ¼ tsp

For the filling:

  • Reduced-fat cream cheese – 1 bar (220gms), softened
  • Sugar – ¼ cup
  • Strawberries – 680 to 900gms, hulled and halved
  • Red currant jelly – ¼ cup

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Put flour, butter, ⅓ cup of sugar, and salt in a food processor. Blend for one minute, until moist crumbs form. Use a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom. Transfer dough into this pan.
  2. Rub your fingers with flour. Press the dough evenly into the pan and along the sides. Use a dry measuring cup to press flour over the dough by dipping the cup in flour. Stick this in the freezer for 15 minutes to make it firm.
  3. Puncture the crust with holes using a fork. Bake for half an hour, until it is golden. If the crust puffs up, use a spoon to gently press it down. Let it sit in the pan as it cools.
  4. Add the cream cheese and the remaining ¼ sugar in a medium bowl. Mix until smooth. Make an even layer of this mixture on the baked pastry.
  5. Arrange halved strawberries in concentric circles. Start from the edges of the pan so that you don’t miss a spot.
  6. Use a saucepan to heat jelly on a medium-low flame. Once the jelly melts, brush the strawberries with the liquid. Leave the tart out for 20 minutes before refrigerating it for an hour. Before you serve, remove the tart from the pan.

 

Lemon Meringue Pie

 Lemon meringue tarts.

Ingredients

  • Tennis biscuits – 1 packet
  • Butter – 100gms, melted
  • Condensed milk – 1 can
  • Lemon juice – 125ml
  • Egg yolks – 2
  • Egg whites – 4
  • Sugar – 150ml
  • Vanilla essence – 5ml
  • Lemon juice – 5ml

Method

  1. Set the oven to 180°C to preheat. Blend the biscuits in a food processor until they are fine crumbs. Combine the biscuit crumbs and melted butter and mix well. This mixture should be evenly flattened in a medium-size tart pan. Ensure that the base as well the sides of the pan are covered.
  2. In a mixing bowl, add condensed milk and start whisking. Add lemon juice, a few drops at a time while whisking. Mix and set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the yolks and add them to the condensed milk mixture as well. Once thoroughly whisked, pour this into the tart pan and let it bake for 10 minutes.
  4. Whisk the egg whites in a dry bowl until they form stiff peaks. Continue whisking as you add sugar in increments. When the mixture is thick and glossy, add vanilla and lemon juice to complete the meringue mixture.
  5. After baking, let the tart pan sit out for 10 minutes. Lower the heat of the oven to 150°C. Top the tarts with the meringue mixture and use a palette knife to create swirls on it. Place the pan back in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until the meringue turns a pale golden-brown color. Once you let the tart cool completely, you are ready to serve.

These are just some of the recipes that you can consider for your tarts. Of course, you can also let your imagination run wild. Tarts can take just about any filling you want and the sky is the limit.

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