Roasted Strawberry + Tomato Elderflower Tart

Roasted Strawberry + Tomato Elderflower Tart

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Hello, everyone!  I'm popping in from vacation for just a second to bring you this bright, summery dessert just in time for Memorial Day weekend!

I know, a tomato dessert sounds crazy.  But this is by far my favorite tart of all time!  Inspiration struck when my husband dusted some table sugar on freshly cut tomatoes.  I thought he was nuts, but the sugar brought out their natural sweetness.  They were incredible!  While hard to describe, they tasted more like tomatoes than any other tomato I had ever eaten.

Photos by Ruth Eileen Photography for The School of Styling

So one afternoon while trying to branch out from the classic strawberry pie, I thought back to that experience and decided to make a filling of roasted strawberries and grape tomatoes.  I roasted them with a little honey to help them caramelize, then I spread the filling over a pâte sucrée (sweet crust). For a little more complexity, I covered the fruit with an elderflower-laced frangipane, which is an almond-based cream that bakes into a cake-like filling.  The result was a sweet, slightly tart filling sandwiched between a crisp, buttery crust and a chewy, floral cake. It was somewhat reminiscent of a linzertorte, but still unlike anything I'd tasted before. It has since become a summer staple!

Photos by Ruth Eileen Photography for The School of Styling

If you've never made a tart before, they can be a little finicky.  But don't let that stop you from trying!  Just be sure to roll the dough out cold and carefully lay it into the pan.  If it tears, gently press it back together or cover the hole with some extra dough.  But don't stretch the dough to fit the pan because it will shrink back as it bakes.  You'll also want to par-bake the crust.  It's not always necessary, but I typically do it to ensure against a raw center.  To make life a little easier, the shell can be par-baked a day in advance, and the compote filling and frangipane can also be made ahead of time. Just allow the fillings to come to room temperature before adding them to the cooked shell.  Oh, and if you're having a hard time justifying buying the whole bottle of elderflower syrup for just a few teaspoons, you can continue to use it in icings, other fillings, and in drinks.  It makes a great soda when mixed with seltzer water!

I will admit that this recipe has several stages, so it may seem a little daunting.  But the result is truly delicious, and you'll be well rewarded for your efforts.  I'd love it if even just one reader felt inspired enough to make this tart.  Please let me know if you do, and happy baking!

Roasted Strawberry + Tomato Elderflower Tart

Yields one 9-inch tart

Ingredients

Pâte Sucrée (Crust) (from the Hungry Rabbit - may yield more than you need; excess can be frozen for a few months)
1 large egg, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes & chilled (see Note 1)

Fruit Filling
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled & quartered
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1-2 tablespoons honey

Frangipane Filling (modified from the Hungry Rabbit - may yield a little more than you need)
1/2 cup almond meal
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons almond paste (can be found in the baking isle or made from scratch)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons elderflower syrup (e.g. D'arbo)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Assembly
Optional: 1 handful additional strawberries for garnish, sliced
1/4 cup apricot jam
2 tablespoons water
Optional: 2 tablespoons coarse crystalline or pearlized sugar for sprinkling

Directions

Crust
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla until combined, then set aside.

Pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt in food processor about five times until combined. Add the chilled butter cubes and continue to pulse in one-second intervals until combined with the dough in pea-sized crumbs. Then add the egg mixture and continue to pulse until just combined.  Be careful not to over-process the dough.  If it looks a bit loose in the bowl but easily comes together when squeezed in your hand, it's ready.  Gather the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and chill it for at least an hour in the refrigerator. You can also store it for a few days in the fridge until you're ready, or for a few months in the freezer as long as it's wrapped air-tight.

When you're ready to par-bake the crust, preheat the oven to 400°F.  Remove the dough from the fridge and let it slightly soften for about 10-20 minutes depending on the temperature of your kitchen. The dough should still be cold and just soft enough to roll out when applying firm pressure.  Dust some flour on a work surface, rolling pin, and your hands, then roll out the dough to until it's 1/4 inch thick (it should be at least 12 inches in diameter). Working quickly yet gently, fold the dough circle in half, then again in quarters and set it into a 9 inch, un-greased tart pan so that the point of the dough wedge is in the center of the pan (see Note 2). Gently unfold the dough package so that it covers the entire pan, and press together any cracks that may have formed. Without stretching the dough, carefully press it into the corners and fluted edges of the pan allowing the excess to hang over the edge. If any holes or cracks appear, you can press them together or fill them in with some of the excess dough. Be sure to apply even pressure to the dough, otherwise the thickness may vary inside the pan.

Place the pan in the freezer for 20 minutes to chill the dough before baking. As with pies and some cookies, the fat must be cold when it enters the oven. Once chilled, dock the crust all over using a fork or toothpick. Then gently place a large sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper over it, and fill the covered pan with pie weights or dried beans in order to weigh the crust down while baking. Otherwise, it will puff up too much.

Transfer the pan to a cookie sheet and bake it on the center oven rack for about 15 minutes, until the edge of the parchment/foil can be lifted without pulling up any of the crust with it. Don't try to remove the parchment/foil beforehand - it could tear your crust!  Remove the pan from the oven and gently remove the parchment/foil and weights. The center of the crust will still look undercooked and glossy. Return the pan to the oven and continue to bake for an additional 10 minutes or so, until the surface just begins to dry out but before the crust takes on too much color.  It should still be pretty blonde since you'll be baking it once more with the filling added.

Set the crust (still in the pan) on a wire rack to cool. It will likely have puffed up a little after you removed the pie weights, but it should deflate as it cools.  You can par bake the crust up to one day in advance. If you leave it out overnight, just lay some plastic wrap on top to protect it once it has fully cooled.

Fillings
Preheat the oven to 400°F.  On an parchment or foil-lined baking sheet, drizzle the strawberries and tomatoes with honey and toss to coat. Roast for 40 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the fruits have caramelized and broken down into a thick, chunky compote. Set aside to cool in a bowl. This can be made the day or two beforehand if stored overnight in the fridge.

Reduce the oven to 375°F.

Using a food processor, blend together the almond meal, sugar, and salt on low speed until combined. And the butter, and continue to blend until combined. Add the eggs and blend until combined. Repeat with the almond paste and extract, 1 tsp of the elderflower syrup, and finally the flour, processing until just combined.  If you're not squeamish about raw eggs, taste the mixture and decide whether or not it needs the additional 1/2 teaspoon of elderflower syrup (to each his own). If so, add and pulse until combined. Then, pour the mixture into a bowl and set aside. This can be made the day before if stored overnight in the fridge.

Assembly
Spread the room temperature strawberry-tomato compote over the crust in an even layer. Then cover the compote with the room temperature frangipane mixture, adding just enough to fill the shell. There may be a little left over - that's okay. Just don't overfill the shell, and remember that the filling will puff up a bit while baking.  Optional: gently press the sliced strawberries into the frangipane mixture forming a ring and allowing them to overlap slightly.

Place the tart pan on top of a cookie sheet and bake on your oven's center rack until the crust is golden brown and the frangipane is puffed and golden, about 40 minutes. Since the crust was par-baked, the edges may start to brown too soon. If this happens, remove the pan from the oven and cover the edges with a crust protector (like this) or aluminum foil. Then return to the oven and continue to bake until the frangipane is golden.

Place the tart (still in the pan) on a wire rack to cool. Meanwhile, add the water to the apricot jam and microwave for a few seconds until thinned. Stir and gently brush onto the top of the warm tart. Optional: sprinkle with the coarse sugar for added texture.

Allow the tart to cool completely before removing it from the pan. To remove, gently place the pan on top of a narrower object (e.g. a large can of tomatoes or a cereal bowl). Allow the pan's outer ring to fall away from the base, then bring your serving plate or cake stand close. Using a cake lifter or a wide metal spatula, lift the tart from the metal base and carefully slide it onto the cake stand or plate. But if it looks like the tart has stuck to the metal base of the tart pan, just leave it! If you try to pry it off, the tart will likely break apart. If you do leave the metal base underneath the tart, just be careful when slicing it so as not to scratch the pan. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. If you can find European-style butter, please use it!  For pie and tart crusts, too much liquid is the enemy, and European butter has a higher fat to whey ratio than most American butters.  Some stores have their own brand (for example, Texas' HEB/Central Market makes a "European-style" butter).  But Kerrygold will work great, and it's available at the usual grocery stores as well as Whole Foods.
  2. A tart pan with a false bottom is best, though any tart pan will do.  Here's the one I used.
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