Tarts are my favorite desserts to make (and eat), going back to the days in the late '80s when I became a huge fan of pastry chef Emily Luchetti (then of Stars restaurant). I used to pour over her book "Stars Desserts" and made many of the recipes, being particularly fond of the macaroon nut and the blackberry streusel tarts.
So, as I spent a fair amount of time in Grand Rapids, Michigan this past July and August, staying at my mom's, I simply had to take advantage of the summer fruits that the orchards of western Michigan produce. I paid a visit to the Fulton Street farmers market where I scored some Michigan Red Haven peaches (BIG favorite from my childhood) and fresh local blackberries which soon went into a delicious peach-blackberry custard tart for a small family gathering. Deelicious! Topped with sliced almonds and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it was just the ticket.
Above: peach blackberry custard tart
When I had a September request for some petits fours tartlettes, I took a break from my La Pâtisserie des Rêves project to turn out some of my favorites - lemon, chocolate ganache and caramel nut.
It's always such a pleasure to return to tart making, especially when the cool, crisp days of autumn are upon us. Working with the cool, supple dough, lining the tart rings or petit four molds and thinking about those luscious fillings is such a delight.
The beauty of these tarts is the make ahead fillings. You can even blind bake your crusts and freeze them ahead of time. Just thaw them briefly at room temp, warm in a 325º oven for 5 minutes to crisp up, then cool and fill. As usual, it's all about the planning.
I've tried many lemon curd/lemon cream tart fillings over the years, always in search of the perfect one. All can easily be made a couple of days (or more!) ahead. I normally prefer a classic pucker-y lemon curd, although this time I used a riff on Pierre Herme's (complements of Dorie Greenspan) lemon lemon cream. It’s oh so smooth and lemony, especially garnished with a dollop of light, whipped lemon mascarpone and a fresh raspberry.
Above: lemon cream tartlettes
The ganache tart filling (3 parts cream to 2 parts chocolate with a bit of butter added) also keeps extremely well in the fridge. The day you wish to assemble the tart, gently warm the ganache over a bain marie to liquefy it before you pour it into a blind baked chocolate crust and allow it to set. I garnish mine with my own chocolate cookie crumbs.
Above: garnishing the chocolate ganache tartlettes
For the caramel nut tart I toast a combination of almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios and blanched hazelnuts before coarsely chopping them and folding them into a caramel filling made with butter, honey, brown sugar, sugar and a little cream and vanilla extract. The mixture is put into a blind baked pâte d'amandes crust and popped back into the oven until the filling is bubbly. Steve describes this one as the best "payday" he's ever had (and it doesn't even have peanuts!)
Above: caramel nut tartlettes
And now - leftovers!! When making petits fours tartlettes, make plenty of filling so you'll have components on hand to create additional goodies for friends or family. It's a great way to plan ahead for an upcoming dessert occasion.
Here are just a couple of ideas.
Lemon semifreddo - freeze the leftover lemon cream in silicone flexi-molds or a plastic wrap lined loaf pan. At serving time either pop them out of the flexis or turn out of the loaf pan and slice - great with fresh fruit, perhaps a little berry coulis and some lovely shortbread.
Caramel nut truffle tart - blind baked pâte d'amandes, layer of caramel nut filling with chocolate ganache poured over. A definite keeper!
Above: the components
Above: pouring the ganache over the caramel nut filling
Above: ready to chill with some nuts peeking through
And finally, a summer reminder - the classic fresh fruit tart with crème pâtissière filling. Ahhhhhh.
Ciao for now!