Rosemary Custard Grape Tart
My mornings, like much of my waking life, is fraught with routine and familiarity. Without the aid of an alarm clock, I wake up at the same time every day – 5:52 A.M. It’ll take me all of thirty seconds for my heavy arms to find their way to my cell phone; I check the time, instinctively open my email, guilt-fully browse Facebook and twitter, and finally slide my phone back down somewhere, anywhere, whilst I float between reality and vaguely lucid thoughts and dreams. I glance out the window, waiting for the orange and yellow morning glow to creep in. Nothing yet.
Some minutes later I’m naked, in the shower of course, briefly contemplating spending my day under the pounding, boiling hot water. I give up on that thought quickly. Back in clothes, after the common routine of morning, and I get to make my first real decision of the day – at least so I think. Coffee or tea? Coffee – always coffee. After my chemex lazily does it’s job, I slop a cup of coffee together in a heavy mug, sling my camera around my neck, and head out the door into the still dark morning.
Then for a brief moment of that morning, mere minutes really, I seem to have the world to my self. The path-littered greenbelt behind my home hasn’t come to life with runners or bikers yet. The park down the street is barren and quite. Streets sit unused. Stores only now begin to flicker to life as some tired clerk goes about flipping open signs and windexing finger-printed doors. Nothing makes me happier than watching a civilization wake up and come to life, except perhaps the quite that precedes such feverous activity.
As I trek about backroads and long dusty paths, the world around me begins to rouse. And then suddenly, as if out of no where, the world around me becomes a swamp of people, a bustle of hurried men and women and children needing to get somewhere. That’s my cue. I head back home. I switch out my camera for a dusty old book or a bare pad of paper. I watch the day age from afar as I bury myself in some frivolous intellectual or creative pursuit.
Somewhere in there I find myself wandering around the kitchen for a reprieve, looking for an excuse to bake something. Unlike the familiar routine that guided me here, I make it all up as I go. Flour flys about the bright white kitchen. Tools clink and clatter against dirty dishes; both begin to pile up on counters, in sinks, and all over any bare space my greedy hands can find. Fingers are coated in batters and doughs and custards and sauces. Bites and tastes guide me through this culinary adventure. A warming oven robs the room of any chill it once had. I watch as I somehow pull some dish together, still after so many years sure it isn’t some learned skill but a bit of magic.
And then it’s done and everything is clean again. I slide my fork into the sweet, fruity, garden-reminiscent tart sitting before me. I close my eyes and just focus on tasting.
Then I go to bed – far too early for my age – and I start the routine all over again.
Rosemary Custard Grape Tart
Yield: 1, 9″ round tart
Prep Time: 1 hour
Resting Time: 2 hours
Baking Time: 25 minutes
Assembly Time: 30 minutes
1, 9″ round tart pan
Pie weights or dry beans
1 pound Sweet Lemon Short Dough, recipe below
1 quart Rosemary Custard, recipe below
1 large bunch black grapes
1 large bunch green grapes
1. Prepare the Sweet Lemon Short Dough and Rosemary Custard according to their instructions and set aside both in the refrigerator to chill. The dough needs to rest long enough until it is firm enough to roll out.
2. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
3. Roll the Short Dough out to a 1/8 inch thick square about 10 inches in diameter, using as little flour as possible. Place the rolled out dough gently in the pie pan, tucking dough into the corners (Take care not to let the dough stretch during this step.) Remove any excess dough that is left above the edge of the pie pan.
Note: Short dough is a fragile dough; it is best to work quickly as the dough will become too soft to work with once it has warmed up.
4. Line the dough with parchment paper or foil. Place pie weights or dry beans on the parchment paper, enough to fill the tart pan all the way to the top. (The parchment paper or foil and the pie weights should be pressed to the edges so it will hold them up during baking.)
Note: This is called blind baking – because you cannot see the dough as it bakes – and is done to allow the dough to retain its shape; without the pieweights, the dough would puddle into the bottom of the pan during baking.
5. Bake the tart dough in the preheated oven for 14 to 16 minutes until the visible edges begin to brown and they feel firm.
6. Remove the tart from the oven and carefully remove the pie weights or dry beans, including the parchment paper separating the beans and the dough. Place a few slits in the bottom of the dough. Place the dough back in the oven and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes until the bottom of the crust begins to brown and feels firm.
7. Set the baked tart crust aside to cool. In the meantime prep the grapes by cutting them all in half, horizontally.
8. Once the crust is cool, pour the custard into the tart. Evenly spread it out so it is level with the top of the crust.
9. Arrange the grapes on top, with the cut side facing down.
Styling: To duplicate my tart (a spiral of the two grape varieties), start both spirals at the same time from the center of the tart. Take care to ensure the spiral is circular in shape.
10. Serve immediately. You can also drizzle a little warmed honey on top for added sweetness if you’d like. This will also act like a glaze, creating a shiny top and help the tart keep a little longer.
Short Dough: Most tarts use a form of short dough to create the base. Short dough is essentially a cookie dough (butter, sugar, eggs & flour). Unlike pie dough that is flaky, short dough becomes firm and rigid allowing the tart to stand on its own without the aid of a pie dish. Because short doughs often contain a lot of butter and sugar in relation to flour, they are a very wet and soft dough and thus short doughs must be refrigerated for an hour or more before rolling out. The lemon in this recipe gives this dough a tangy, floral sweetness while the oat flour gives it a wonderfully earthy, nutty flavor.
Sweet Lemon Oat Short Dough
Yield: 1 pound or enough for 1, 9″ round tart
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Resting Time: 2 hours
Stand mixer with beater attachment
5 oz. unsalted butter, at room temp.
4 oz. sugar
1 tbsp. lemon zest
1/4 tsp. salt
5 oz. all-purpose flour
2 1/2 oz. oat flour
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar, butter, egg, lemon zest and salt together until combined.
2. Add the flour and mix until a dough forms.
3. Form the dough into a disk and wrap in parchment paper.
4. Place in the refrigerator and chill for a couple hours.
Custard: Since this custard uses cornstarch, you can bring the mixture to a boil while thickening it without fear of cooking the eggs. However, be sure not to cook it more than a few seconds once it reaches a boil, otherwise the cornstarch will breakdown and the custard will become irreversibly thin.
Yield: 1 quart custard
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Infusing Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20-30 minutes
Heavy bottomed pot
Ingredients:1 qt. milk
1/4 oz. rosemary (about 5 sprigs)
2 oz. cornstarch
8 oz. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 oz. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract.Instructions:1. Place the milk in a heavy bottomed pot. Add the rosemary sprigs to the milk. Bring the milk to a simmer.2. Once the milk has reached a simmer, remove the pot from the heat and let it cool to room temperature with the rosemary sprigs in the milk.3. In the mean time, mix the cornstarch, sugar, salt and eggs together in a bowl. Set aside.4. After the milk has reached room temperature, remove the rosemary sprigs and any rogue leaves.5. Bring the milk back to a simmer. Once the milk begins to simmer, slowly pour some of the milk into the sugar mixture while whisking vigorously to temper the eggs. Return the tempered egg mixture to the pot with the remaining milk.6. Heat the mixture over medium-high heat and bring it to a boil, stirring or whisking constantly. Once at a boil, continue cooking for another 30 seconds to ensure the cornstarch taste is cooked out.7. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla extract. Mix until the butter is completely melted.8. Allow the custard to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge to chill.