Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mini Tart - Fresh Blueberries

I have to say big thanks to Mr.Art who showed me the techniques and a step-by-step of how proper tart shells are made. The method he demonstrated was an original way using pastry blender. But those who has problem with cutting ice cold / hard butter into flour, food processor could be a really big help.

I did a little research on tart recipe with the same smearing technique. Some use whole eggs which I found out that the dough turn out to be too wet. Others use normal white sugar which does not provide neat final product as sugar does not dissolve and thus crystals appear on the tart shells.

Along my web-browsing, I came across a very nice and beautiful blog, Chocolate Shavings, who posted pretty photos of individual blueberry tarts. Thanks Chocolate Shavings for inspiration. I tried his pastries crème and it indeed is very mild and smooth. However, it did not set in the fridge and a bit too runny. So I did not use it finally.

Thanks Mr.Art again for tart shell recipes

Tart shells
400 g of all purpose flour
200 g of butter, cubed and chilled (or frozen)
60 g of icing sugar (Normal sugar is okay but you will see sugar bits in the final product)
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp of salt
1-2 tablespoon of very cold water (optional)

Be forewarned, this must be made in a cold cold and cold room. If your kitchen is warmer than 24 C, turn on the air-conditioner. If you don't have one installed, eh...I don't want to say this, but you can alter butter with other kinds of fat with higher melting point, like magarine. But of course, it doesn't taste as nice as butter.

Sift the flour, sugar and salt on in a chilled bowl, make a well. Put in the very cold butter. Incorporate butter into flour using pastry blades or pastry scraper until the dough clumps with the size of yellow splits peas, or even better, fine sand. You have to work quickly and ensure the butter does not melt. If it does, put the bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes and continue.

I prefer to use my tiny food processor that holds upto 2.5 cups of flour. It helps a lot especially if you are not ready to go physical with this task. I put 1/3 of flour mixture and 1/3 of butter and pulse for few seconds. Repeat for the rest.

Once the dough resembles small peas/sand, pour the flour on work surface, make a well in the center. Add eggs in the center; lightly fork around until dough comes together loosely. Then use both of your hand to form a pile of dough. If it seems to be too dry such that a portion of the ball falls apart, sprinkle 1 table spoon of very cold water, one at a time, until they come together. I would add probably up to, say, 2 tablespoons, not more than that. Or one might perfer, spray on the dough to distribute it evenly. But I wouldn't bother.
Smear the dough - From the top of the pile, use the heel of your hand, smear it out completely onto the counter surface. It should take a spoonful at a time. This process makes sure the butter is well incorporated into the flour and makes the dough easy to work with. Once done, put the dough together into ball, it should be smoother and more pliable. If you see butter chunks in the dough repeat the process. This can be done up to three times. For those who have warm hands, work quickly as we do not want butter to melt.

Form it into 2 balls and press down to form discs. Wrap with plastic wrap rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Pastry crème
4 eggs
100g icing sugar
4 tbsp (40 g) all purpose flour
4 tbsp (32 g) corn flour
600 ml milk
a few drops of vanilla extract
a pinch of salt

Cream the eggs and sugar together until really thick and pale in color. Sift and beat in the flour and corn flour and a little cold milk to make a smooth paste. Heat the rest of the milk and salt in a sauce pan until almost boil and pour on egg mixture, whisk well all the time. Through sieve, return mixture to the sauce pan, discard the curd left on sieve. Stir over low heat until mixture starts to boil. If you are not quick enough, makes sure the heat is low or the curd will form up at the bottom/corner. I normally switch between whisk and spatula, to ensure I reach around the corner. Add vanilla extract to taste and cook further for a few minutes. The consistency should be a little thick just like that of pancake batter. Before putting off from heat, be sure to taste if the flour is cooked through. If it tastes a little grainy on your tongue, cook further and stir constantly for a few minutes.

Cover and allow to cool completely before filling in the tart shells.

Bake the tart shells

Take the dough from the fridge. If it appears to be too hard to roll out, leave it out for a few minutes. Or massage it on the board with rolling pin. I read on a Recipezaar that someone actually shaves pie dough on the tart pan and press it on. Quite an interesting technique but I have never tried that as yet. Roll out the dough on a lightly-floured parchment paper. Press the rolling pin on the dough, start from the center. The idea is to spread out from the center, then extend to the edges

Do not worry if edges are thick and ugly, we will get there later. For me, the dough was really difficult to roll when it was cold; I pressed the center down, just to ensure I did not have to squeeze it out in later rolling. Then turn the dough less than a quarter, repeat rolling from the center. Again do not bother if you don't yet reach the edge. If needed, lightly flour the work surface on the dough if the it seems to stick to parchment paper or to rolling pin. Once roll for about 4-5 turns, roll from center to the edge. Turn the dough while you roll. Repeat until it the dough is about 1/8 inch thick.

Consistency check – cut through the edge with pizza cutter and check if there are any spots thicker than others. If there are, roll to spread out dough evenly.

Use cookie cutter to cut to desire size that fits individual molds/tart pans. Place the dough on molds loosely. With unused dough tapped with flour, press the dough against the mold. Use knife, slash out unwanted dough on the edge. Prick bottom of the dough with a fork a couple times. Place a small parchment paper (a little bigger than the mold) in the center of the dough and weight down with beans. Bake blind for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. When the shells are firm to touch, and turn golden pale yellow, remove parchment paper and beans. Continue baking around 2-3 minutes more to let inner shell dry out. Allow to cool completely before put in fillings.

Fresh blueberries
Jam of your choice.

Microwave jam in medium heat until just melt, press it through sieve. Letcool until warm to touch. Toss 1 tablespoon of jam with 1 cup of blueberry to coat. Set aside or wrap with plastic in the fridge.

Final assembly
Fill in 2/3 of tart shell with paster creme. Chill for a few hours. Do not place the blueberries right away or they may sink to the bottom. When ready to serve, put blueberry on top.

Ideas for decoration – garnish with little mint leaves or curls of orange zest on top.

enjoy !