Like pies, tarts are fun, versatile, and make people smile. The one distinct difference between the two is the omission of a top crust on tarts. Whether filled with sweet creams or fruit, or cheese, eggs and vegetables, the free-standing desserts are inviting to palates young and old(er). Because tarts can be served as appetizers, entrees or desserts, the possibilities for ingredients, taste, and presentation are only limited by one’s imagination. So, why not play around with various profiles? The result may be a captivating recipe.
When first making tarts, it can be beneficial to find a multipurpose dough recipe, like the one seen here, that works for both sweet and savory pastry. Once mastered, basic recipe formulas are easily adaptable to match filling flavors and palate preferences for endless occasions. With the many foods that crossover without a lot of effort, adding nut flours/meals increase a depth to flavor that can often be absent from simple butter/shortening pastries.
Tart fillings don't need to be elaborate to wow others. For instance, goat cheese adds a twist that will have people talking with its unique quality and slightly tangy flavor. The cheese's adaptability works well in savory dishes and in sweet. It pairs beautifully with honey, agave, or maple syrup, all of which diminish any worry of sharpness, and offers a wonderful alternative to cream cheese. When matched with fruit and nuts, a tart's sweetness that can be subtley subdued by the cheese and the marriage turns to bliss.
Apple Cheese Tart
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 ½ cups flour
¼ cup almond meal/ground almonds
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 large egg
1 (plus) Tbsp. ice water
½ tsp. almond extract
8 oz. goat cheese
2 Tbsp. honey
2 apples, like Fuji, Rome, or Granny Smith
½ cup golden raisins
1 cup flour
¼ tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cardamom
½ cup butter (¼ cut in small cubes, ¼ melted)
¼ cup sugar
1 cup slivered almonds
Make the tart shell: Whisk together egg, 1 Tbsp. ice water and almond extract; set aside. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, rub together the butter and flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in almond meal and sugar. Add the egg mixture and mix until the dough comes together. Knead the dough a few times until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 20-30 minutes.
In the meantime, make the topping and preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk together the flour and spices. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, rub in butter. Stir in sugar, then almonds. Set aside.
Stir together goat cheese and honey until smooth and spreadable. Set aside.
Roll the chilled dough to fit a 10-inch fluted tart pan. Using a rolling pin, roll over the top of the tart pan to trim off the excess.
Spread the goat cheese mixture in the bottom of the tart shell in one even layer.
Peel, core, and thinly (and evenly) slice the apples. Arrange over the goat cheese mixture in overlapping concentric circles. Sprinkle the raisins over the top of the apples. Cover completely with the topping. Drizzle the melted butter sporadically over the crumb topping. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden and the apples are tender. Cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack before serving.