Marie’s latest post on the Modern Baker Challenge was a gentle reminder that I have been delinquent in posting (and, let’s face it, even making) recipes from the current chapter that participants are meant to be baking from, savory tarts. In fact, all of us have fallen behind, Marie’s valiant efforts notwithstanding. Of course, it’s no surprise that we’d be, well, slightly less motivated with resepct to this chapter. Most importantly, where is the sugar? But a little more legitimately, some of my lack of motivation has to do with the fact that many of the recipes in this chapter are more summery in nature–while I am certainly missing heavy ripe tomatoes and firm fresh zucchini, anything I were to make with their glum wintery alter egos would just be disappointing.
But there are some recipes in this chapter that are just right for when it’s been cold enough that anything in the 40s is cause to rejoice. So I settled on Nick Malgieri’s recipe for a Gruyere, Scallion, and Walnut tart. I modified it slightly, making two mini-tarts, and using dough leftover from a Julia Child leek quiche that I recently made. Just enough for a rather rich dish, and given how much gruyere costs, a good way to experiment before commiting to a full recipe. (Yes, it’s quite handy to have “cracked the code,” as it were, to figure out how many mini-tarts equal a 10″ tart. Six, by the way, just to recap).
What I liked best about this recipe is how easy it is to break down into a simple formula (which then could be easily varied upon)–sprinkle some cheese and an aromatic vegetable, and nuts on the base of the tart (here, of course, Gruyere, walnut and sauteed scallion), then beat egg and cream together and pour on top.
My two tarts puffed up dramatically in the oven, into a golden, barely browned dome, and just as quickly deflated as they cooled. To ensure that you can present your tart with panache, but still fit it into your schedule, have all the components ready beforehand, and simply assmeble and bake at the last minute. (I usually do this with quiche–make the filling and the crust the day before, then bake the following day). You may have to add a few minutes to the cooking time to account for the chill you’ve put on your ingredients while they rested in the fridge, but I think a little longer wait time is a small price to pay for a freshly baked tart.
It’s also worth taking the time to toast the walnuts beforehand. I tell you this as someone who did not do so (Do as I say, kids, not as I do!) My weeknight cooking, much like many others’, is a scramble to get things in the oven while catching up with two very little but very rambunctious boys after a day at work. Things slip, steps are inadvertently skipped. Not perfect, but I can tell you that if you do not toast the walnuts beforehand, they get a bit of a rubbery taste and texture as they bake into the tart. On the other hand, “life happens” (to propogate another cliche) and these transgressions aside, it was still much better than a microwave meal, fresh from…the freezer case at the grocery store?
My husband enjoyed this just as much the next day when he took his mini-tart to work. (Thanks to his job, his dinner portion often ends up as the next day’s lunch). I like to think that, presentation aside, having a homemade tart at midday makes up a little for a late night before. Enjoy the little luxuries you can, right?