Vidalia Onion season has arrived here in Georgia; the only location in the world where Vidalia Sweet Onions grow. True lover’s of this savory sweet goodness anxiously await every spring for the arrival.
There are so many recipes for the use of the Vidalia, but this post is dedicated to a Tart recipe.
Recently, I assisted cookbook author and chef, Holly Herrick, at the Cook’s Warehouse. I’ve always wanted to learn how to make tarts and I came across what Holly calls her “favorite recipe” she actually published it in a second cookbook. Since it is Vidalia Season, I decided to embark on preparing a tart with the proper equipment; pans, pie weights and White Lily Flour.
Regarding pie weights…, save the money, buy a bag or two of beans. The chain weights are pricey and worthless. The ball weights would be better but pricey. The only reason I opted for the chain weights was to avoid dropping beans or ball weights all over the floor when removing them from the hot tart shell after blind baking.
From her cookbook, Tart Love – Sassy, Savory and Sweet (Gibbs Smith, October, 2011), Holly’s recipe is for a serving of 10-12 people. What started out as a tart I would make for six people (men having two) ended for only three. So, I have deviated from the recipe in the book.
When I asked Holly permission to use the recipe, she was very quick to point out “ Please be very careful every ingredient and method is 100% correct.”
I will offer you here Holly’s “Master Savory Pastry” recipe but you’ll need to buy the book for the actual recipe using Vidalia Onion’s for the larger size. You won’t regret the purchase. Well known blogger and photographer, “Hèléne Dujardin, did an excellent job bringing the many tarts alive. I will buy any cookbook where she is the photographer. If you’re a food blogger, Hèléne’s book, Plate to Pixel (Wiley Publishing, 2011) is a required book to have in your possession.
Every year, when my brother-in-law and nephew come off the Appalachian Trail, they return to our home and “debrief” as they like to call it. Family members gather to hear the tales of the trail. Knowing they have been eating MRE’s, a real home cooked meal is appreciated. Unfortunately, their hike went bunk and my plans for making Holly’s large pizza size tart changed to a small 9″ square tart.
If that wasn’t enough change in the recipe, I discovered I need to find a new hiding place for wine. Holly’s recipe calls for white wine. Someone found my secret stash, so I had to change this to Marsala. Despite the changes I made, the Vidalia Onion Tart turned out a perfect savory and sweet dish served alongside a thick cut of grilled Filet Mignon. Funny thing I just read in a health magazine. Onions prevent stomach cancer but you also have to eliminate red meat. Hmmmm…
Master Savory Pastry
Makes two 9-inch tart crusts
2½ cups White Lily all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
2 sticks (1 cup) AA grade unsalted butter, cold and cut into ¼-inch cubes
3 tablespoons ice-cold water, or just enough to hold the pastry together
I will be paraphrasing here and I urge you to purchase Holly’s book for more detailed information on Tart baking. The key to “flaky, perfect pastry is minimal manipulation of the dough.” Flour contains gluten and over working the dough makes for a tough tart. I tried six times before the 7th came out adequate and the 9th time came out pretty close. I intend to master the art of tart making and will be signing up for classes in the near future.
Butter must be cold, cold, cold, not frozen but really cold. Freeze refrigerated butter for approximately 30 minutes before using. If you already freeze butter (because you buy in bulk) remove from the freezer about 10 minutes before using.
Pour water in a bowl with ice and then place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Use either a food processor or mix by hand with a pastry blender.
Complete your mise en place and then you’ll be ready for the butter and water to finish off.
Combine the dry ingredients by pulsing 10-12 times in the food processor or by pasty blender.
Adding the butter. Holly says “Think of this step as ‘wrapping’ the butter with tiny packages of flour that will help the pastry rise as it bakes. The butter needs to be quickly blended in until it resembles the size of very coarse sand or seat salt.” This comes with 40-50 quick pulses using the processor or same for cutting with the pastry blender.
(A side note: I blended both ways and found greater success using the food processor. These appliances are expensive. Save your money and buy a simple food processor. They’re cheaper than the souped up versions unless you see yourself processing and cleaning a lot.)
Next add the water. Slowly “trickle” the water into the dough while pulsing or cutting. When the dough forms a “big, messy ball, STOP!” At this point, you may need to add a tablespoon or two of flour. If it is sticky or gummy, throw it out and start over. (Which I did six times)
Turn out the pastry on a floured surface and shape into a 2-inch thick disk. Wrap in plastic and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Remember this recipe makes two 9-inch crusts. Divide in half and double wrap the dough and freeze up to two months. When ready for another tart, remove from the freezer and thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Now it’s time to roll out. On a floured surface, place the dough ball. Holly says “Give the pastry a few love taps to break it in” by use of the rolling pin. Turn the dough over, sprinkle flour and begin rolling out. Turn the pastry frequently in quarter turns adding bits of flour to top and bottom to prevent it from sticking to the surface. Roll the dough forming the shape of the tart pan you will be using. When the dough is ¼ thick, it’s ready to place onto the tart pan.
Roll the pastry around the rolling pin and carefully place over the tart pan as you unroll. Once formed inside the pan read further to decide on how to finish the Edge/Border.
Finishing the Tart Border. There is Flush and Elevated. For a Flush Border, once the pastry is fitted into the pan, take the rolling pin and roll over the edges. The excess dough falls off. For Elevated, lift about ½ inch excess dough hanging over the edge back to the interior of the pan. Now roll the pin over the edging. Press the dough with your thumb and forefinger elevating the edging.
I did what is called Blind Baking; pre-cooking the pastry. Since I was cooking the filling (Vidalia Onions) ahead, the tart could be cooked ahead. For Blind Baking, I placed a sheet of parchment inside the shell and topped with pie weights. See note above on pie weights.
I placed in a pre-heated 375° F oven and after 20 minutes, removed from the oven and took the pie weight off. I painted this partially baked pastry with an egg wash using one whole egg and a little water and returned to the oven for an additional 10 minutes. Again, buy the book for greater information on Egg Wash.
Note to self: Pay closer attention to crust edge and turn pastry in oven for even heating. See burned edges in photo above. Cut me some slack, this was the 9th ball of dough I worked with. I felt lucky to get as far as the tart pan.
Prepare the Filling: my recipe is derived from Holly Herrick’s recipe.
For one 9-inch tart
Three large Vidalia Onions, sliced
Three slices bacon, lardon (or cooked then chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste, preferably Kosher and freshly ground pepper
1 Tablespoon of coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves
¼ cup Marsala unless you have dry White Wine
1 Tablespoon honey
1 egg, beaten
1 Tablespoon whole cream
Heat a large sauté pan (skillet) on medium high, cook the bacon lardon. When browned, remove to paper towels to drain. Pour from pan, all but a couple of tablespoons of rendered fat.
Add to this the sliced onions, salt, pepper and thyme. Cook until onions have softened, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes. Do not let the onions brown. After 20 minutes, add the wine. Cook the wine down to a glaze. Reduce to medium low heat and add honey and chopped bacon. Mix well. Remove onion mixture from heat into a shallow pan or bowl and allow to cool in the refrigerator.
When cooled, drain off any excess liquid. Add the beaten egg and cream, incorporating well. Taste and season accordingly.
Reduce oven temperature from when you baked the pastry down to 350° F. Fill the pastry with the onion mixture and bake about 20 minutes or until the filling is set.
This can be served warm or at room temperature.
So there you have it…A Tart of Vidalia Onions. I feel pretty accomplished in that I didn’t give up.