31 August 2012

Caramelized onion & broccoli tart (my first tart dough from scratch!)

It's funny how moving to a different country changes up the way you cook. Back in France, I would have never dreamed of making my own Thai curry pastes from scratch. Not that it's necessary here in Thailand of course, given all the awesome and freshly made pastes that you can buy in the markets and just about any supermarket, but it's nice to make your own when you have ready (and cheap!) access to lemongrass, galangal, Thai garlic, shallots and chilies. On the other hand, back in France I never bothered to try my hand at making my own pie or quiche dough. Why bother when perfectly beautiful, pre-made pâte brisée (basic French tart dough) could be found just about anywhere, just ready to unroll and throw into a tart pan? That particular luxury doesn't exist here, so I decided over the weekend that it was high time to face my fears and attempt to make a pâte brisée from scratch to form the basis of a good savory tart, which I'd been craving for the longest time...

I'm no expert at baking or anything involving dough for that matter, so it goes without saying that I was nervous! Putting my apprehension aside, I turned to my trusty copy of Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan (a modern-day Julia?) to check out Dorie's recipe for pâte brisée. It looked pretty simple...and I followed it exactly, and much to my surprise, it came out beautifully! I didn't roll it out quite as perfectly as I would have wanted (exposing again my weakness with dough...I have the same problem with chapathis and other Indian breads) but no worries...it turned out to be absolutely the perfect flaky texture and buttery taste that you would expect in a good French quiche or tart! What a feeling of accomplishment this feat was...and what a funny thing, to have finally mastered French tart dough...in Thailand!

Only your imagination is the limit when it comes to what to put in a savory tart, but I was keen to use some of the gorgeous broccoli we had as well as some caramelized onions (Luis's favorite!). I also wanted to add sun-dried tomatoes, but couldn't find the bag which I thought we had brought back from the States. They would have added a nice tart, salty contrast though! But one thing is for sure... now that I've overcome my fear of making pâte brisée, I'll certainly be making it regularly and with all kinds of fillings...so stay tuned!

Makes 1 good-sized tart (about 6 slices)

For the crust 
(Recipe by Dorie Greenspan - see here for detailed recipe and food processor method)

1 1/4 cups (170 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter (about 3/4 of a stick)
1 egg
1 teaspoon ice water

1. Mix all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

2. Add the chilled butter to the mixture bit by bit, breaking it down and mixing it in with your fingers. You are looking to evenly incorporate the butter and achieve a fine crumbly texture.

3. Beat the egg and water together in a small bowl and pour over the dough. Mix well with a fork and then with your hand, mixing and kneading the dough until it comes together.

4. Gather the dough into a ball and then flatten with the palm of your hand into a round disk. Lightly flour the disk and place it on a plate. Chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours (or up to 5 days).

5. When you're ready to roll out the dough, butter a 9 to 9 1/2 inch pie/tart plate, making sure to butter both the bottom and the sides.

6. Roll out the dough on a large sheet of wax paper dusted with flour. Dust the dough with flour and turn in quarter turns regularly to increase your chances of getting a perfectly round shape (I didn't do this but should have!). You're looking for your dough to be 1/4 inch thick and at least 12 inches in diameter.

7. Remove the dough gently from the floured surface and mold it onto the pie/tart plate, using any extra overhang dough to plug up any gaps that you might have. Trim the dough even with the top of the plate using the back of a table knife. Prick the dough with a fork in several places on the bottom.

8. Chill the plate with the dough for at least an hour (you can also freeze at this point if you are making ahead for another day).

9. Just as you're about ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 F / 200 C. Place a buttered/greased piece of aluminum foil, buttered side down, on the surface of the dough. If you wish, you can fill the covered crust with rice or dried beans in order to weigh it down evenly (I used about 1/2 cup of dried black beans). These won't be edible afterwards but save them for future baking!

10. Place the pie/tart plate on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and the rice/beans and bake the crust for another 3-5 minutes or until lightly golden.

11. Remove the crust from heat and allow it to cool until you're ready to fill it.

For the filling
1 tablespoon butter
2 large onions, thinly sliced
Dash of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 sprig fresh thyme (optional)
1 small head broccoli, chopped into florets (3 cups of florets)
3/4 cup milk (I used low-fat)
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Dash of nutmeg

1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.

2. Add the onions, salt, sugar and thyme. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are caramelized. This can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes (yes, that long!) depending on your stove, pan and the amount of sugar added. Yes, it's time consuming but it's well worth it! See a more detailed recipe here.  

3. While the onions are caramelizing, bring a pot with a scant quantity of water to a boil. Place the broccoli florets in a colander or steamer and steam for 2-3 minutes until just crisp-tender. Mix into the caramelized onion mixture once it is ready. Remove the broccoli-onion mixture from heat and allow it to cool down a bit.

4. Spread the mixture onto your pre-baked crust. Preheat the oven again to 350 F / 175 C.

5. Whisk together the milk, eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a small bowl until well-blended. Pour this mixture over and around the vegetable mixture.

6. Bake your tart for about 30 minutes, or until the center has set.


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  2. Broccoli tart...hmmm sounds refreshing! How I wish my husband wouldnt frown wen i made broccoli...he just cant stand the sight of it! :-( But nevertheless i shud try some mini tarts for myself on one of those reward days :-)

  3. Very nice dish! I am glad you had the patience and desire to make the crust from scratch. The crust has lots of butter, good enough to make Paula Dean happy. But may be not, she usually starts everything with a stick of butter. You haven't used quite that much-Mom

  4. Tarts are so perfect any time of the day and this one looks lovely and fresh, with all that broc and cheese!