One autumn day about two centuries ago, our family gathered in one of those picturesque New England towns for a sibling/cousins weekend. My job was to bring homemade apple pies. The pies were made with apples that we’d picked the weekend before. They were large pies, apples piled up high and perfumed with cinnamon and nutmeg. The crusts were golden brown and flaky – the kind of crust that loves vanilla ice cream on the side. I’m drooling slightly thinking of that memory.
We had yet to venture into GF pie making which is a whole other world. But when we did, sometimes GF pies rocked and other times they were slightly off and never as good as the old days. The fillings were always tasty, but the crust was either like dust or more chewy than jerky.
Gums (when I did use them) really made a big difference in holding the crust together. But now that I bake without gums, things can be a little trickier. I was having no luck with making a large pie crust that not only looked pretty, but tasted like crust rather than powder.
In deep, deep thought over a chocolate bar, I came up with a tiny little plan. It seemed that if I could master the tiny (baby-steps) tart, then perhaps I could figure out the key to crusts that went in real pie pans. That’s the idea, at least.
These little baby tarts, in their umpteenth rendition are still a work in progress, because my pie making work is never done. But I’ve made several batches of this free-form little baby tart and they are quite tasty.
Fill them with whatever makes you happy, or happens to be in the freezer, on the counter, or in the refrigerator. The tart won’t mind.
I am determined to create a GF swoon-worthy duplicate of those New England apple pies. I’m also determined to make a tiny tart that looks like the fabulous Tartine (tiny) Galettes. And while these baby tarts are enthusiastically rustic, they are a great start.
GF Canteen Baby Fruit Tarts
These baby tarts are inspired by Tartine’s tarts. Be sure to keep your ingredients as cold as possible. Refrigerate the little dough slabs as soon as they are mixed and patted into a disk. They will have to warm up a touch in order for you to manipulate them into shape, but you can always refrigerate them before baking. Crust always does better when baked from cold. Egg wash with cream is your friend in getting the raised edges to stay up – by brushing the inside edge you can “glue” the folds together as you pinch them up. And then brushing again on the outside creates something for the sugar to adhere to which turns into that sweet brown crust. Don’t worry if the fruit leaks onto the parchment or if a side collapses – it is all a part of the enthusiastic rustic charm of this baby tart. And over fill the fruit – stuff it into the crevices because it will cook down and you want lots of fruit in there. I like to pile the varying colors on the top for visual appeal when baked. And don’t move them before they are cool enough to slide onto a rack using a flat spatula. Or, I sometimes move the entire parchment onto the rack to cool along with the tarts. Once cool, you can pick them up. Best served just slightly warm with a splash of whipped cream or creme fraiche on top.
- 100 grams GF flour (25 g. oat flour, 25 g. brown rice flour, 50 g. potato starch)
- pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 55 grams unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- 11 grams organic cream cheese, cold and cubed
- 1 egg white (about 22 grams) (save the yolk for brushing)
- 15 grams ice-cold water
- fruit (berries, apples, peaches, anything)
- 1-2 tablespoons favorite liquor (optional)
- cream (for topping and 1 tbspn for brushing)
- creme fraiche for topping (optional)
In a food processor pulse the flours, salt and sugar to combine. Drop in the cold butter and cream cheese and pulse until the size of large peas. Add the egg white and water and pulse until dough comes together.
On a starch-dusted piece of plastic wrap (be generous) divide dough in even quarters. Pat into flat-ish discs and make sure to get potato starch on the top and bottom just so it doesn’t stick. Fold plastic wrap over discs and refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour or overnight.
Roll each disc on a surface dusted with potato starch until about 5-6 inches across. Try not to roll the edges flat or it will be hard to pick up.
Place on baking sheet lined with parchment. Sprinkle sugar all over the inside bottom of the shell. Brush about 2 inches of edge with egg yolk mixed with a tablespoon of cream.
In the center, over the sugar, mound fruit into a pyramid shape. Leave at least 1.5 inches on the edge. Pull up the edge around the fruit to make a cup with a wall overlapping and pinching as you go. The wall should slope in toward the fruit. Stuff with more fruit if you can without compromising the shape. Layer colors on the top so when it bakes down, you get a view of the variety of fruits.
Pinch dough up around the edges of the filling and mush together gently letting the egg wash help you with getting the dough to stick together. Feather the edges of the crust randomly so it has an uneven look. Be sure to make certain the dough sides slope toward the center – not only does it look better, but might help keep the sides from falling over.
All four will fit on one sheet pan. Sprinkle some sugar (taste the fruit to see how much sugar it might need) with your fingers into each fruit mound and splash the liquor into the fruit mix.
Brush the outside of each tart crust with an egg yolk/cream mix and sprinkle with sugar. Some sugar will land on the parchment and probably smell a bit as it cooks. I use the exhaust fan to help.
Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes and then turn the oven to 350 and continue baking until the shells are brown and the fruit is bubbling. about 25-30 minutes more for my oven. Some edges will be golden brown and others will have a darker color because of the sugar.
Cool until you can transfer them (or the parchment) to a rack. Cool until you can handle them. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or a splash of creme fraiche. And prepare to make more. One round is never enough.