Tuesday, June 05, 2007
The leek is generally available year round but is at its peak during the cooler months of the year. Its soft onion flavors that offer so much comfort make it one of my favorite winter vegetables (having to share the mantle with beetroot). On a rainy day and paired with heavy cream, leeks are best served up in a tart.
The shortcrust pastry below is for a 25cm/10" fluted tart shell. I had the best time making the pastry because the kitchen was very cool late this morning, amenable to a sturdy (i.e. does not tear) result. I wonder, though, if making it by hand also made a difference, for I was able to get a much better feeling for the pastry as I was making it, knowing when enough water to bind had been added.
If you are going to make shortcrust pastry with a food processor, put the sifted flour, salt, and diced butter into the processor and blitz until sand-like granules are formed, then add 1-2 tablespoons of ice-cold water to cohere the mixture.
(from Tamasin Day-Lewis' The Art of the Tart)
For the shortcrust pastry:
1 1/4 cups flour, sifted
pinch of kosher salt
113g/4oz unsalted butter, diced
1-2 tablespoons ice-cold water
For the tart's filling:
slightly less than 1.5kgs/3lbs leeks, cleaned and cut into 1 1/4cm/ 1/2" slices
50g/4 tablespoons unsalted butter (Ms. Day-Lewis uses 6 tablespoons)
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
To make the shortcrust pastry by hand:
1) Sift together the flour and salt into a large bowl.
2) Add the diced butter.
3) Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until sand-like granules are formed.
4) Add one tablespoon of ice-cold water to cohere; if this does not quite do the trick, add another tablespoon.
5) Once formed into a ball, wrap the pastry in cling-film and put it in the fridge for at least one hour.
6) Once chilled (and firmed), bring out of the fridge until pliable.
7) Lightly flour your surface and place the ball of dough on it, rolling away from the center and turning after each pass of the rolling pin until large enough to fit into your tart shell.
8) Put in the fridge again until ready to bake.
To make the tart filling:
1) Over a medium-low heat, melt the butter in a medium-sized skillet.
2) Add the leeks and saute gently until completely softened, approximately 15-20 mintues.
3) Take off the heat and cool.
4) In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, egg yolks, pinches of both salt and pepper, and a bit of freshly grated nutmeg.
5) Stir this creamy goodness into the cooled leeks and combine.
For the Flamiche:
1) Preheat oven to 175C/350F.
2) Pour the leek mixture into the cold pastry shell. Remember: the pastry is not baked blind, so it is imperative that the leeks are cooled before adding the cream mixture and, more importantly, before pouring into the pastry case. If not, you will completely melt the butter and have a very soggy pastry.
3) Bake for 35-40 mintues, until set with a very slight tremble.
This is not as runny as it may seem. The preferred consistency is not rock hard, for that would take away the work put into gently sauteing the leeks. The result of a tremle-set is a very creamy interior, which goes down comfortably and comfortingly. The pastry shell is just crisp to encase the interior but yielding enough to melt in the mouth.
Did you use both the green and white of the leeks, or didn't it matter? Some recipes are very specific.
This tart looks delicious and I love tarts with a little tremble...
I always make my pastry by hand - unless it's a cocoa shortcrust which just turns to mush under warm hands - and I love how quickly it comes together. And you have much less washing up than using a food processor.
Freya - Does Paul really hate it?? Why? Surely it cannot be tasteless; it is very buttery and rich in taste...Maybe he thinks it is too tempramental? I just think this is a good introduction to flaky crust, and I am sure there are many other versions to try. You are now an expert at puff pastry! Yes, shortcrust comes together quickly; I was able to brew a cup of coffee in the time I made the dough.
Sara - This tart is a breeze to make and so tasty, a great use of leeks. I love having leeks around for chicken broth, soup, and tarts.
Kelly-Jane - I am sure you are underestimating yourself, for the results I have seen you produce for many different dishes are excellent. And you always choose the best plates on which to serve your food!
Amanda - I know the lighting is very dramatic, but it is natural. The webcam drives me nuts, but I have only to deal with it for a short period of time and shouldn't be so image-conscious (which is why I write about the food in the first place). The Art of the Tart is a great resource if you are seriously keen on making tarts; there is an intriguing variety. Just be stealth-like, you never know when an Amazon Marketplace vendor will reduce his or her price.