With the hot hot heat and sun showers we’ve been having, it’s no wonder we’re flush with tomatoes. Vine ripened red ones from Long Island? Yeah we got those. Little tiny fuzzy Garden Peach tomatoes in the house? You bet ya. Giant knobby heirloom varietals? Duh. After stuffing our faces with raw tomato salads and slicing them on every sandwich we’ve eaten this past week, we decided to class it up a bit with a French inspired tomato tart. Comprised of a mere 4 ingredients (not counting the crust), here is a sure way to wow the pants off your friends the next time you’re headed to a backyard barbecue.
For the crust:
8 oz. Pastry Flour
4 oz. Unsalted Butter, cubed
2 oz. Cold Ice Water
For the tart “toppings”
2 medium to large tomatoes, slice 1/4″ thick
1/3 lb. Prairie Breeze Cheddar, grated
2 TBSP tarragon dijon mustard
1 TBSP thyme, minced
Making any type of pie or tart dough can seem daunting, but I’ve found Michael Ruhlman’s 3-2-1 ratio for crust to be excellent and relatively dirty dish free! It takes the hassle out of using measuring cups and relies on an inexpensive kitchen scale to get the correct proportions of flour to fat to liquid. In this case pastry flour, butter and water.
Combine your flour and butter with a pinch of salt. Make sure your butter is cold, as you want to be able to use your fingers to break the butter cubes into pea-sized crumbles. The colder your butter when you start, the less likely you are to melt it with your finger tips as you work. After coating the butter cubes with the flour, use your fingers to pinch the cubes into smaller and smaller pieces. The mix should be coarse, the butter evenly distributed.
Now it’s time to add the ice water. Once again, the water should be as cold as possible so as not to melt the butter into a sad puddle. Make a well in the middle of the flour/ butter mix and add the water to the center. Using your hand as a scoop, loosely toss the flour into the water well repetitively, turning the bowl as you go. Mix until the dough begins to, well, become dough instead of a simultaneously dry AND sticky mess. As soon as the mixture begins to become a coherent mass, form it into a ball, or disc.
It will need to be chilled before you continue to work with it. Wrap it in saran and toss it in the freezer while you prep the rest of the ingredients. Now would be a good time to preheat your oven to 400 degrees, slice your tomatoes, grate your cheese and gather your herbs.
Okay. So you have your prep work done. Your dough has been chillin’ for 15 minutes or so. It’s time to roll it out. Lightly flour your work surface and cover your rolling pin with a light dusting as well. Beginning in the center of the dough ball, use your forearm strength and your rolling pin to evenly press down on the mass, flattening it out as you go. Pick up the dough, rub the counter flour around to evenly coat your work surface, and plop the other side of the dough down. You aren’t trying to add more flour to the dough, but as you work, the butter globlets that are in there are bound to soften and become sticky. There’s nothing worse than having perfectly rolled out dough, that is impossible to lift up off the counter. You’re aiming for a perfectly round shape, but that’s not likely to happen. Just keep working at the dough, pushing it out slow and steady, continuing to dust with flour while periodically lifting off the counter surface to prevent sticking. If it starts to become long and narrow, try turning your rolling pin or the dough itself in a different direction. When you’ve rolled your dough out to a point where it looks slightly larger than your 9″ tart pan, you’re ready to get it on the pan and in the oven. I like to “dock” the dough by gingerly rolling the dough onto my pin and gently unrolling it again atop my tart pan.
Lightly press the dough into the crevices of the tart pan. Don’t freak out if your dough has wholes. There will be extra overhang dough to use as a quick fix. Use your rolling pin to roll over the top of the tart pan, using the edge as a sort of blade to cut off the excess overhang.
Since the sliced tomatoes are moist, I like to parbake my crust. Also, I’m cheap, so rather than buy ceramic pie weights, I use dried beans. Carefully line your raw dough with tin foil and fill with any kind of dried beans. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, discard your foil and pie beans, and let the tart assembly begin!
Using a fork, prick the inside of the crust a few times to keep it from rising in the oven. Spread the dijon in an even layer inside of the semi-baked crust. Sprinkle the grated Prairie Breeze Cheddar on the mustard, much like you would a pizza. Beginning from the outside, layer the tomato slices in a pretty fan-like pattern.
Continue layering your tomatoes until your layer of cheese is covered. Sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper. Bake in your oven at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes. The crust should be toasty and golden brown when finished. Voila!
Let your tart cool slightly before removing the outer tart ring and sling from the base of the tart pan. Cut into wedges and serve with a simple green salad. Your mouth will say thank you very much.