I had the morning to myself and decided to bake up a storm! These delicious tarts are made with a wonderful variant on the traditional shortcrust pastry, the French pate brisee. I used a recipe for pate brisee au sucre by master baker Andre Lerch of Patisserie Lerch. The recipe can be found in Paris Boulangerie Patisserie: Recipes from Thirteen Outstanding French Bakeries by Linda Dannenberg. This is one of my favorite cookbooks - there are so many excellent recipes in this book for cakes, breads, sandwiches, sweet and savory tarts. There's even recipes from the famous La Maison du Chocolat!
The pate brisee au sucre produces a rich, sweet pastry shell that is crisp and reminiscent of shortbread. An egg is used instead of water to bind the dough, sugar is added, and also a tiny amount of baking powder. It's not the easiest dough to work with as it's quite fragile and will fall apart on you. It was perfect for the little individual tart pans I used.
And, yes, those are pine nuts in those tarts.
Here's a closer look:
Precious pine nuts, the nuts used to make pesto, make tasty sweets too!
I found a very easy recipe to bind the pine nuts to the shell in a book called Boulangerie by Paul Rambali. You simply heat up equal parts of honey and cream in a saucepan just until warm, spoon a little of the liquid into the shell and then pack in the pine nuts. I used Marshall's Farm Natural Honey.
I also used the honey and cream mixture with sliced apples:
It was a fabulous combination. The cream and the honey really enhance the apple's flavor. I'll add a little Calvados next time.
Also on the plate are small apricot tarts, based on another recipe from Andre Lerch. The apricot tarts have a cake-like batter that puffs up around the apricots and absorbs their juices to prevent the crust from getting soggy:
With the pastry I had left over, I made tiny jam tarts:
Actually, the one on the right is made with Lyle's Golden Syrup, not jam. When I took the golden syrup tarts out, the filling was totally liquid, but once cooled, it set perfectly. I also tried one with Nutella (a chocolate hazelnut spread) as a filling. It didn't melt to fill out the tart shell like the jams and ended up not looking that pretty. Once cooled, the Nutella was quite hard. It was a big hit with the kids, though, so sorry, no picture.
Which was my favorite? Nope, I can't decide.