Sunday, August 09, 2015

Baking Center Experiment #2 - Tart Shell

It is a nice compliment that when we are invited to dinner the hostess often asks me to bring a dessert (because I always ask what I can bring). I love to bake and they know it. Now that I am avoiding quite a few foods, including gluten and butter, it is quite a challenge to figure out what to bring, but also fun given the many sites that have gluten free and vegan recipes. The cookies from the last post graced two dinner parties, the second one being a family affair. I knew the kids would love the cookies and I think a Dad and a Granddad also enjoyed some.

For the adults last night I spent all of my Saturday energy (and at the moment I don't have a lot of energy) making a gluten free tart shell, then filled it with a mixture of Gravenstein apples from our tree and peaches since this is that brief time when both are at their peak. Because I wasn't really sure if those flavors would mesh by themselves, even with the addition of some spice, I also picked a pint of blackberries by the lower garden and made a blackberry sauce for garnish. A can of the whipped cream that squirts out was mostly for the kids, but it was nice on the tart, too.

I had never made a tart that didn't have a wet filling and perhaps I should have made some applesauce to put on the bottom or created a custard to pour over the fruit because, despite being tented with aluminum foil to retain moisture, the fruit in the tart remained somewhat uncooked and became dry on the surface by the time they should have been cooked. I had put foil under the tart pan to catch any juices that might come through and save my oven bottom from scorched fruit juices, but that didn't help either.

The extra fruit that wouldn't fit into the tart had been put into a small ceramic baking dish, tightly covered with foil and cooked in the oven along with the tart. When I removed the foil I found that those slices of peach and apple were perfectly cooked and juicy, too. Since there was room at the top of the tart for additional fruit, I carefully used tongs to lift each cooked piece and lay it in a pattern on top of the drier fruit in the tart. Once I finished, I baked the whole thing another 18 minutes and it was perfect! the moist fruit on top acted as a lid, so the fruit below finally cooked and softened.

After the tart cooled a couple of minutes, I glazed the fruit with some homemade nectarine jam given to me by a friend. Once it had cooled completely, I filled in the spaces at the sides and between slices of the fruit with more of the jam, then refrigerated the whole thing.

Because this was a brand new, experimental gluten free tart base I had no idea how the tart would turn out, but it was great with a shortbread kind of tart dough (perhaps just a bit less tender and more crumbly than one with regular flour) and juicy, delicious fruit filling. As I suspected, the fresh blackberry syrup pulled the flavors together in a lovely way. The essence of August in our neck of the woods.

Here is the Tart Dough recipe I used. For the filling I used two large peaches, peeled, pitted and slices, three medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced, some cinnamon, some nutmeg, some cornstarch and a pinch of salt. If I did it again I think I would cook all the fruit before putting it in the tart, then glaze with the nectarine (or peach or apple) jam or jelly.

The tart dough production uses a technique that I had never tried. You put pieces of the dough around the rim and across the bottom of the pan and push them together to form the dough. Worked well, but I would have frozen the shell longer or filled it with pie weights because it shrank significantly. Even though I didn't do it this time, I put that into the recipe below so I won't forget to do it next time since I often use my blog as my recipe box for all the 'next times'. I also forgot to save a small piece of uncooked dough to patch gaps once almost baked. It's always a good idea to do that with tart dough so you can make repairs and then bake it a little more.

GF Tart Dough
adapted from a recipe at Serious Eats blog, Elizabeth Borbone, from her recipe for Roasted Asparagus Tart
1 cup white rice flour
2 tablespoons oat flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 oz - 1/2 stick- 4 tablespoons chilled dairy free butter substitute
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup ice water

In the bowl of a food processor combine white rice flour, oat flour, almond flour, tapioca flour and salt by pulsing briefly.

Add the butter, cut into small cubes, to the dry ingredients, distributing evenly over the inside work bowl area. Pulse until pieces of butter are no longer large. You may get a mix of small and very small butter pieces. That's O.K.

In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, egg and water. Whisk or beat with a fork until well combined.

Add a small amount to the flour/butter mixture through the food processor feed tube, then run the processor and pour in the rest of the egg mixture. Process until dough forms a ball. It doesn't take long.

Grease an 11" tart pan with removable bottom with cooking spray. Pinch of tablespoon sized pieced of the dough and put around the edge of the tart pan and then all over the middle of the pan. Use a measuring cup or your fingers to smoosh the dough pieces together so that the bottom is covered with a fairly even layer of dough, then push the dough up the sides and joining the dough in the bottom of the pan. This dough is easy to work with and not sticky, so no need to flour your hands. Trim off excess dough at the top rim with a knife. Use the tines of a fork to prick all over the bottom of the pan. Wrap in plastic and freeze 45 minutes.

While tart is in the freezer, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F with the oven rack in the middle of the oven. After the 45 minutes of freezing, take a large piece of parchment paper and crunch it into a ball, then spread it out again and use to line the tart, trimming off excess. Use pie weights of beans or lentils that you only use for blind baking to fill the parchment. Blind bake until light golden brown, about 20 minutes, then remove the parchment and weights and continue baking another 5 minutes until golden brown.

Let cool and use as you would any other baked tart shell.


  1. Jam is seriously the answer to everything sometimes!!
    I'm glad this worked out - since I've made almond shortbread style cookies before, I can see it would have been tasty with that base - I wonder if the other flours would improve that. I'll have to try a GF blend, instead of just almond-hazelnut flours...

  2. Tanita, I have been attempting to make my own GF blends since I have an assortment of GF flours. The one blend I bought, Bob's Red Mill, has a couple of bean flours in it (didn't check before buying) and I'm going very light on beans. I think the almond flour was OK because it is so finely ground...King Arthur Flours version...that my concern with nuts is probably not valid. Finding it fun to try things out. Maybe not as much fun as your poetry jams. I do love those posts and usually link to the other poet's pages, too. Very talented bunch!