Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I Heart Tarts

Currants are still at the Ann Arbor farmers market, and the jewel-like translucence of the red currants is just too seductive for me to pass up. While red currants are quite tart and are typically cooked with plenty of sugar, the black currants are just sweet enough to eat fresh. The addition of sugar (not too much, but not too little) cuts past the assertive tartness to allow the fruits’ real flavor to shine through—unique, refreshing and a bit wild and hard to place.

Wasem Fruit Farm sells them, and the gal at their table at the market today said that they have large groups of Russians out to their farm lately, picking masses of currants and gooseberries. (What do the Russians know that we don’t?!)

The web is full of all sorts of recipes using currants. I based the red currant tart recipe below on a European site, making the metric conversions and finding a simpler version of the classic paté sucrée. (Why fuss around rolling out a crust if you can just press it into your tart pan?) This recipe is dead simple, and in about an hour you can have a gorgeous tart that will taste as good (and French) as it looks.

Red Currant Tart

2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
8 Tbsp chilled butter, cut into small cubes
4 Tbsp heavy cream

14 oz red currants- stemmed, washed, and dried gently on a paper towel
2 eggs
5 Tbsp brown sugar
3.5 oz heavy cream
½ of a vanilla bean, scraped (if you want to get fancy with it—and make sure to save the pods to make vanilla sugar! Never let a perfectly good vanilla bean pod go to waste.)

1. Preheat oven to 350°
2. Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Using a hand-held pastry blender (you could probably just as well use a food processor), completely combine butter into flour mixture until the texture is fine grained and is like barely damp sand. There should be no gobs of butter visible.
3. Drizzle in vanilla extract and cream, then use a spoon and then clean hands to fully combine, forming a crumbly pastry dough.
4. Press dough evenly into a 10-inch tart pan. You can also use a pie pan of any size, but you’ll probably find yourself with more pastry than you need—or a thicker crust. Using a fork, pierce the dough all over to prevent puffing up in the oven.
5. Bake in the oven for 10-20 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned. Keep watch over your crust, as baking time will vary depending on the pan you chose.
6. Remove crust from the oven to cool a bit.
7. While crust is baking, in a medium sized bowl whisk to combine eggs, cream, brown sugar and vanilla to combine.
8. Once crust has cooled a bit, lay currants in the bottom of the crust in a single layer. Gently pour egg mixture over currants—the liquid should be about three quarters up the pan, and not completely covering your currants. The custard will rise a bit as it cooks.
9. Bake tart at 350° for 30 minutes, or until the custard is set in the center and the crust becomes a nice golden brown. If crust is brown but the center is not fully set, cover the tart very loosely with a piece of foil. Remove from the oven to cool. Serve warm or chilled.


Jen of A2eatwrite said...

It was, indeed, both gorgeous and delicious.

Fruit, preserves and jams are foods of choice in Russian cuisine. My guess is that those Russians are enjoying the season and putting up preserves, as well.

Often at the end of the meal, you'll have a cup of tea with a little dish of home made preserves, that you eat with a tiny spoon. It truly is a delightful end to a nice meal or a nice day!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for leaving some of the leftovers with me. Jeff and I have been enjoying them!! :)

Anonymous said...

I came here from Kim's blog, and was excited to see a currant tart recipe. But one question for you: I bought black currants from Wasem's this weekend and I'm wondering - since you say they are sweeter, can I use them in this recipe, maybe just cut back on sugar? Or should i look for something else? I should have asked while at the market!

Alex said...

You could totally use the black currants but I wouldn't cut the sugar back by more than a tablespoon. There's not an alarming amount of sugar in the recipe to begin with. Worst case scenario- the tastiest kind of trial and error! Good luck!

Shayne said...

I have been craving this tart for about 9 days now, wishing I had had a bigger peice at the get together.