Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Tale of Two Tarts

The word "Two" combined with the word "Tarts" does magical things for me. It brings me back to the Portland Farmers Markets where my friend Heather and I would frequent the lovely Two Tarts Bakery. I admire everything about their business- the quality of the product, reasonable prices, beautiful presentation, and friendliness. Although they have not been open long, they appear to be well-established and professional. That is exactly what I aspire to be like in the future when I too follow my dream of starting my own business.

My "Tale of Two Tarts" actually doesn't involve the bakery; they were just an inspiration for the post title, so I thought I would mention how wonderful I think they are.

With Spring finally here and weddings galore, my mom and I have been sampling various tart recipes to serve at a wedding shower we are co-hosting. Tarts are a fairly simple way to make a bold, yet elegant statement at nice event (you know, something a little fancier than a backyard barbecue where chips and dip are an acceptable appetizer).

The first tart we tried was sweet and the second was savory. In pastry school, my absolute, hands-down favorite thing we made was the Pear Tart. It has a sweet tart dough (Pate Sucree) crust, an almond (Frangipane) filling, with poached pears on top. Heaven in a tart pan. When I was in school in Portland living alone, I tried not to take the treats we made home because I didn't want to be eating them all the time. Well, I took the whole Pear Tart home, and what should have taken a week to eat probably only took a few days. I think most Dietitians would disapprove (oh wait, I am one- Oops!).

Pate Sucree (Sweet tart dough) - Yield: 4 x 8" tarts

  • 4 oz powdered sugar, sifted
  • 8 oz butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12 oz All-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
Blend butter, salt, and sugar on low speed.
Add egg and vanilla.
Add flour and mix slowly until dough forms. Don't over-mix!
Chill in plastic wrap before use.

*You can freeze the unused dough as long as you wrap it tightly. Another use for unused dough is to just roll it out, cut, and bake like cookies!
Frangipane - Yield: 2 x 8" tarts

  • 6 oz almond paste*
  • 1 oz sugar
  • 4 oz soft butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 oz cake flour, sifted (I used AP flour)
Use paddle attachment on low speed to blend together almond paste and sugar (you may have to use your hands to help break it up)
Add soft butter and blend in completely
Add eggs, then flour

*Almond paste is a little pricey; if you want to make your own, just combine--in a blender or food processor--2 parts blanched slivered almonds (without skins) with 1 part sugar, plus enough moisture to make a paste. I made the tart twice and the second time I didn't have enough store-bought almond paste, so I tried making my own and it turned out great! One thing I noticed though, is that the store-bought kind had a stronger almond flavor, so I added a bit of almond extract to my homemade paste.
Poached Pears - You will need 1-2 pears for each tart

  • Look for pears that are quite firm so they don't fall apart while poaching
  • To make the poaching liquid, dissolve sugar into water in about a 1:1 ratio. So if you need 3 cups of water to cover the pears in the pot, use about 3 cups of sugar. You are basically making a simple syrup so you can make it as sweet as you like. It will turn out fine if you decide to add less sugar.
  • Make your poaching liquid over medium heat to dissolve the sugar, then add the pears-- which should be peeled and cored--and reduce the heat to low.
  • Cut a circle out of parchment paper to fit down in the pot and cover the pears.
  • Poaching times vary, but will probably take at least 20-30 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick; it should go in easy and feel almost like a canned pear.


To assemble the Tart:

  • Roll out the tart dough and press against the sides and bottom of the tart pan. Remove excess by just pressing your thumb against the top edge of the pan to cut it off.
  • Smooth the frangipane filling out in the bottom of the tart shell
  • Drain poached pears and slice into thin wedges (whatever you think looks pretty)
  • Arrange the pears on the tart and press slightly into the frangipane filling
  • Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes or until golden brown and set.
  • Allow the tart to cool and then brush the top with an apricot glaze (just warm apricot jam + a splash of water on the stove or in the microwave)
  • Enjoy your beautiful masterpiece!


OK, I know that recipe sounds complicated, but it really isn't all that bad and like I said, it can be very impressive! I am not going to post the recipe for the other tart because it will also be long and I don't want to bore you. If the pictures leave you dying to know what all goes into the Sauteed Spinach-and-Mushroom Tart with Ricotta Cheese either let me know and I can e-mail you the recipe or go to the library and check out Once Upon a Tart by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau with Carolyn Carreno. It is a great book!

I don't mean to brag or anything, but...YUM!!


  1. yes! thank you for finally mentioning me in your blog. now my life is complete. and yes, i agree, those pear tarts were pretty darn good. i'm impressed how good looking your came out. but i dont think im gonna try the savory one. i just dont like mixing my desserts with savories. but it does look quite amazing. peace home slice!

  2. Yeah, a savory tart is a funny concept at first, but it's almost like a quiche, which I LOVE! It's basically just an excuse to eat awesome pie crust at dinner!

  3. wow! both looks absolutely delicious, i'm drooling... :)

  4. Tina- Thanks so much! That's what is so great about them- they are a treat for your eyes and taste buds!