Coming up next in the series of things I learnt at school, are tarts. I love both kinds – savory & sweet. A savory tart filled with cheese and all kinds of meats and veggies is great as an elegant hors d’oeuvre, appetizer or light main course and a sweet tart for dessert, filled with fresh fruits, rich nuts, irresistible chocolate or smooth ‘n’ silky cream….sounds yum 😛 . They make an elegant impression, showing off their outer beauty by revealing the fillings that go inside the shell. I believe serving a narrow slice of tart or a little tartlet is a stylish way to add finesse to any occasion. (Alright…I think you got the point?!)
While, I have acquired the skill of making the pastry dough for the tart shell after going to culinary school, I have to say that it’s not that easy if you wanna try it, just for kicks. It’s also not something for the weak at heart or if you are obsessive compulsive about a clean kitchen 😀 . It will get dirty, it will be a royal mess and it will take time to clean up. Steel yourself!!! Just go to the store and grab frozen pastry dough or a few tart shells and fill’em up with the most amazing things!
Making the most of Summer’s bounty, I’ve created two tarts using the season’s highlights – Heirloom Tomatoes and Mangoes.
Heirloom Tomato Tartlet
Here’s a classic French savory tartlet, baked pizza-style, with flat crust. After I learnt making tarts at school, I had to give this rustic tomato tart a try – in the memory of my visit to Paris where I first had it and also in the honor of the heirloom tomatoes, since they are all over the place this time of the year!
Now, I have put my ‘signature’ on it by spooning a generous amount of basil pesto on the base underneath the tomatoes and drizzling a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, salt pepper and lots of fresh parsley. This time, I made my own pastry dough and used not too many complex ingredients, so that I could enjoy the true flavor of the heirloom tomatoes. I remember having the first bite of this tart … the buttery pastry melted away and the tomatoes burst in my mouth with the pesto leaving a subtle after-taste as I finished it.
I think it’s a great tart for beginners – once you have the required puff pastry dough, it can be easily assembled and baked off in the oven within minutes. Cut it into quarters and serve it as an appetizer or an individual tart for a casual lunch accompanied by a mixed-greens salad and you are good to go!
homemade pastry dough enough for 1 10-inch tart or 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry (like Pepperidge Farm), thawed
½ cup basil pesto (homemade or store-bought)
3-4 medium heirloom tomatoes, cut into about ¼-inch slices
extra virgin olive oil
fresh ground black pepper
flat leaf parsley or basil, coarsely chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 deg F.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough ¼ inch thick or if using store-bought, unfold the pastry sheet and lightly roll. Using a 6-inch saucer or a round lid as a guide, cut 2 rounds of pastry. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, prick them with fork and and refrigerate, if not using immediately.
Using a spoon, spread basil pesto on each pastry round, leaving about ½ inch border from the edge. Place the tomato slices, about 6-8 per tart and then drizzle a little olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper. Finally scatter chopped parsley or basil on each tart.
Bake in the oven for about 20-25 mins, until the pastry is golden brown. Make sure to place the baking sheet on the center rack of the oven. Serve warm or hot.
Mango Mousse Tart
And now for some dessert! This chic tart tastes as good as it looks and is very simple to put together. The filling is a smooth creamy mango mousse that sets in the tart shell after a few hours in the refrigerator. I’ve made the mango mousse before using gelatin but this time I applied the Sabayon Technique I learnt at school for making a decadent Chocolate Mousse. After a few failed attempts, I am excited to present my ‘signature’ mango mousse, looking oh-so-tempting in a perfect tart setting.
The tart gets it’s glazen look from the Mango Miroir, which is is simply mango jelly that is gently poured over and allowed to set on top of the mousse and the decorative fruit topping. ….Looks stunning, doesn’t it?! Go ahead, give it a try!
For one 8-inch tart
1 store-bought 8 inch tart shell (I got mine at the Wholefoods Market, bakery section) or follow your favorite recipe and make your own shell.
Mango Mousse Filling
1/3 cup/80 ml/3 oz mango puree (Alphonso Mango Pulp would work great, if mangoes are not in season)
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1 egg yolk
1½ tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp orange liqueur or no pulp-orange juice
Whip the heavy cream until it holds a soft peak. Cover and reserve, refrigerated.
In a small saucepan, bring about 2 inches of water to boil. Reduce the heat under the water to that it simmers slowly.
In a heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar by hand for a couple of mins and then whisk in the orange liqueur or juice. Place the bowl over water and whisk constantly or using an electric hand mixer, until the mixture thickens and lightens in color, for about 5-7 mins.
Take the bowl off the heat and continue whisking for about 5 more mins, until cool and risen in volume.
To assemble the mousse, whisk mango puree and fold in the whipped cream into the sabayon (egg-sugar whipped mixture). Spoon the mousse into the tart shell and let it set in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours, ideally overnight. (You can let it sit in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours)
½ cup mango juice, like Frooti (If you can find mango juice, no pulp-orange juice would work too)
½ tsp (¼ pkt) unflavored gelatin powder (Knox)
about ½ cup of your choice of fresh fruit like berries, peach slices, pineapple chunks, for decorative topping
Sprinkle the gelatin on to the mango juice in a heat-proof bowl and soften for ten minutes. Place it over a small saucepan with simmering water and stir continuously so that the gelatin dissolves completely. As soon as the gelatin melts, the solution will become clear. Remove the bowl from the heat and let it cool down to room temperature.
Remove the tart with the mousse from the fridge and top it with the fresh fruit. Pour the cool mango jelly over the mousse and fruit and return to referigerator for a couple more hours.