Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Revisiting the Tart of Death

Three years ago, I attempted this nectarine tart, a.k.a., the Tart of Death. It's from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, and it requires you to thinly slice about 8 nectarines, and then wind the slices into rosettes and place them in a pre-baked tart shell. Which is about as easy as trying to mold live worms into tulips. Slimy, sticky, stubborn nectarine slices simply do not make great candidates for rosettes. In fact, in my frustration at trying to create the rosettes, I actually sliced off part of my finger.

And yet there is something daunting about this tart that I've never forgotten. If a team of Martha's minions could make nectarines into rosettes, then so could I! And so, three years later, I attempted this recipe once more, with success.

A few things to keep in mind.

When slicing your nectarines, slice them as thin as possible. Choose one of the thinnest slices you can find and wind it into a cone shape for the center of your rose. Then quickly wind a few more thin ones around it to form a somewhat stable core. Pinch the core together and quickly transfer it into the pie shell, then keep winding more nectarine slices around that one to keep it in shape.

If you don't drive yourself crazy, you may actually succeed in doing this. Leave yourself a lot of time.  Put on some good TV in the background.

Another key for this recipe:  You need to make a brown-butter/egg filling to pour over the rosettes and then bake it.  Double the filling that Martha calls for and use almost but not all of the doubled filling.  The first time I made the tart, I could barely taste the filling, but this time, I had the right amount.  I also think it might be nice to sprinkle some turbinado sugar on top to add a bit of crunch.

I have defeated the tart of death!

Nectarine Tart of Death:



2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter chilled and cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.

2. With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

3. Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.

4.  Roll out and fill an 8 inch tart shell pan.  Prick dough and blind bake (cover dough in parchment and pie weights) at 350 for 20 minutes, until firm and just golden, then remove pie weights and parchment and continue to bake another 20 minutes until deep golden brown.  Remove pie shell and cool.

Filling: (This is Martha's original recipe, but I doubled mine.  The choice is yours)

3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp Chambord or brandy (I used Grand Marnier)
1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour 
1/4 tsp salt 
8 nectarines

1. Make and pre-bake a tart shell in an 8-inch tart pan.  Set aside to cool completely. 

2. Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat, whisk occasionally until butter solids begin to brown, about 5 mins. Remove from heat, set aside. 

3. In medium bowl, whisk egg, sugar, lemon juice, Chambord and salt until light in color and double in volume, about 2 minutes. Add flour, salt, and reserved brown butter, whisk until well combined. 

4. Slice nectarines into 1/8 inch slices. Make roses by loosely coiling a thin slice of nectarine for the center, then wrapping each additional slice around it, offsetting each slice from the previous one. Make and transfer enough roses to fill tart shell, filling any gaps with extra nectarine slices. 

5. Whisk filling briefly, pour evenly over fruit, using a spoon to fill empty spaces. Bake at 375F, rotating tart halfway through, until filling has slightly puffed, about 40 mins.