Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Spring Tart with Asparagus and Red Onion, and the Easiest, Tastiest Tart Dough Ever


I am so excited.  My favorite part of the year is finally here, at least, the start of my favorite part.  Because with spring comes the beginning of produce season.  With spring comes rhubarb and berries, of course, tart in the early weeks, but sweetening as spring extends into summer.  Then come the stone fruits, as well as other juicy things like melon. Everything seems to drip.  And finally autumn.  Deep flavored fruits like Italian prune plums, and figs, who's fresh form so outstrips its dried.  They're accompanied and followed by things like quince and pomegranate and honey-flavored persimmon.  I can't wait.  But first, there's spring.


And although I tend to romanticize fruits more than vegetables, nothing signals spring quite so well as the appearance of asparagus.  I've already shown you how I roast them, my favorite simple way.  But for a centerpiece dish, nothing beats a bready, custardy, eggy tart.


And the best part is that with this tart I have discovered the best, the tastiest, and the easiest tart dough ever, assuming you're not afraid of yeast (please don't be afraid of yeast).  It's an adaptation of an Elizabeth David recipe via Annie Sommerville, so with that kind of lineage it's sure to be a winner.  Imagine a buttery brioche puffing around a bed of asparagus and custard.  And it doesn't even need to be rolled out.  It's pressed right into the pan to await your toppings of choice.  This is my new go-to tart dough, for sure.  I hope you love it as much as we do.

Spring Tart with Asparagus and Red Onions
Barely adopted from Annie Sommerville's Fields of Greens

1 recipe yeasted tart dough
Olive oil for the pan
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
Salt and white pepper
1/2 pound asparagus, tough ends removed, sliced on the bias in 1 inch pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
Zest of 1 orange
2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add the onions and season with a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Sauté until soft, about 7 minutes.  Add the asparagus and season again with salt and pepper.  Continue to cook until the asparagus is softened, about another 7 minutes.

Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl to cool.  Toss with the parsley.  Season once more with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then add the half-and-half, the orange zest, and 1/4 teaspoon salt as well as a few pinches of pepper.

Sprinkle the cheese on the bottom of the prepared tart dough, which should already be in the tart pan.  Spread the asparagus mixture on top, then pour the custard mixture over that.  I had a bit of custard left over.  Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the custard is set and the crust is slightly browned.

Yeasted Tart Dough (my new favorite)
It's important that your egg be at room temperature and your butter softened at room temp as well so that they easily incorporate into the dough.

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup ap flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (optional but wonderful, that's about the zest of half a largish lemon)
1 large egg, at room temperature
3 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
Extra flour

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water and let stand as you prepare the rest of the ingredients.  Combine 1 cup flour, salt and lemon zest in a bowl, and whisk to incorporate.  Make a well in the middle and add the egg and butter as well as the yeast.

With a wooden spoon, mix until you get a soft, stickyish dough.  Dust with flour and transfer the dough to a clean bowl.  Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until doubled in size.  You can either shape the dough at this point, or knead it down and give it an additional rise.

Prepare a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom by spraying it with cooking spray.

Knead the dough down again and place it in the center of your pan.  Press the dough out to the edges of the pan.  The dough should be thicker on the sides than in the center.  If it snaps back as you try to spread it, just let it rest for a few moments before trying again.  Fill, and enjoy.

Notes:

* The dough can be made the day before and refrigerated after its last rise, before it's spread into the pan.  Just bring it to room temperature before filling and baking.
*  The orange zest in the custard was good, but I might go with lemon next time.
*  I had a little custard left over, but just filled the tart as full as it would go and forgot the rest. 

UPDATE: A reader pointed out that I had said the butter should be melted in my note.  Sorry, it's supposed to be nice and soft at room temp. but not melted.  I've corrected the recipe above.

22 comments:

The Cooking Photographer said...

That tart dough looks fantastic. Ok really it all does! Printing now.

Thanks Andrea.

~Laura

missy-j said...

The tart dough is interesting. But the recipe mentions that the butter be softened as opposed to melted in your note.

Andrea said...

Missy, I just set the egg, the dough (which I had refrigerated overnight) and the butter out all at the same time and once everything reached room temperature the butter was soft enough to easily incorporate with a wooden spoon without melting it. Hope that helps!

Hayley said...

That crust looks amazing Andrea, like a big pizza filled with veggies! Thanks for the recipe!

david said...

you write so advanced in the article, I am very happy to visit your blog and learn more after you read any posts

Chrissy said...

This look delicious!! Makes me hungry reading your post

Angela said...

This looks beautifully eggy and flaky. And the asparagus is gorgeous. Ah, spring! Thanks for the post.

Lindsey said...

If I don't have a tart pan, do you think this would work in a springform pan and/or a regular pie pan? I'm in love with fresh asparagus, so I'd love to find a way to try this!

croquecamille said...

Asparagus and red onion are a great flavor combo, and I love the idea of a yeasted tart dough! Sounds divine! (I am quite the contrary of afraid of yeast - I jump at the cance to use it - it fascinates me.)

Elra said...

Amazingly delicious looking tart Andrea! I like that the tart dough sounds easy to of make.

unconfidential cook said...

Thanks for the dough recipe. I avoid making tarts because of the dough....This just looks divine.

Kim - Easy French Food said...

Very interesting. I defintely have problems making tart dough - I get very growly whenever anyone's within 10 meters of me. I usually just buy prefab even though it is not nearly as good. You may have the solution for me here. I made this sugar pie recipe which uses a similar technique, and I didn't have to apologize to any family members afterwards. So I think I'll try your method on my next savory tart. Thanks!

gastroanthropologist said...

I really like the taste of yeasted doughs - and love how simple this one is. I love how this tart is full of asparagus and spring definitely is a great start a the best seasons (each one if my favorite depending what time of year it is).

Ammu said...

The tart looks delicious and inviting. Nice click too.

Sam said...

The tart looks fantastic! I'm bookmarking this!

Mei said...

This is definitely on the menu this week. Let me know when you come back!

Angelica said...

Wow the tart looks great!!!!

Will try to fit it into an already busy food schedule.

soma said...

I love asparagus.. & have been having a lot of it lately. this is such a lovely recipe.. & thanks for the base recipe. should try it sometimes.

Dragon said...

I'm not afraid of yeast! I can't wait to try this. :)

The Wanderers' Daughter said...

Heaven!

Andrea said...

Lindsey, I'm so sorry it took me so long to respond to your question. I was out of town and, well, forgot. Apologies. I think if I were you I'd try it in the pie pan and just realize that you'll probably have to cut pieces out directly from the pan, rather than turning it out on its own. But i feel like a springform pan might have sides that are too high and cause it to steam a little, which might make the dough soggy (I could totally be making that up). Let me know if you try it!

Lael said...

We are currently in the midst of spring over in New Zealand, so this tart is going on my to-do list. I love the look of the crust and the filling...asparagus, red onion, orange, and gruyere, yum!