Someone asked me recently why I didn’t study pâtisserie at Le Cordon Bleu. The honest reason? I’m not keen on most sweets and I don’t like chocolate. (Yes, you read that correctly.) If there’s a choice of dessert or a cheese plate, I always go for the fromage. When I started to review restaurants back in the 1990s, I routinely left a report on desserts out of my reviews. I was working then with Tom Sietsema, now the restaurant reviewer at The Washington Post. Tom said, “Kat, you have to write about dessert. That’s the reason why some people go out to dinner.” For years I trudged through all the classic dessert clichés, the endless variations on cheesecake, carrot cake and creme brulée. I died a thousand deaths by chocolate.
Last month, I was a guest chef at Rancho La Puerta in Mexico, a health-focused spa straddling the U.S. border at Tecate an hour from San Diego. As part of the hands-on classes I taught to guests there, I had to develop dessert. The recipe had to fit certain parameters: less than 80 calories a serving, no white sugar, preferably no white flour. I decided to use it an excuse to finally find a dessert that I like well enough to make it routinely. I’ve been making a whole wheat tart crust for ages based on a recipe from Clotilde Dusoulier’s blog Chocolate and Zucchini. I know they grow beautiful berries at the ranch, so after some trials, I developed this recipe as a way to balance out the fresh, sweet flavors of the fruit in a light custard sweetened by honey aided by a savory bite of pine nuts, a twist on a recipe in Patricia Wells’ excellent cookbook, At Home in Provence. My mother says this tart is now her favorite dessert, and I think it’s mine, too.
Mixed fruit tart with pine nuts, thyme and honey
with a whole wheat olive oil crust
This works best in a tart pan with a removable bottom, but if you don’t have one, a standard pie plate will be just fine. The dough makes enough to line an 11- to 12-inch tart or pie pan. Any mix of fresh fruit will work; it’s excellent when made with bananas. Makes about eight servings.
2 cups (250 grams) light whole wheat flour
or a 50/50 mix of all-purpose and whole wheat
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil (or the oil of your choosing, provided it withstands cooking)
- 135 ml (1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon) cold water
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons raw full-flavored honey
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted, then crushed
Enough fresh summer fruit such as strawberries, peaches, raspberries and blueberries and plums to fill your pie plate or tart tin (typically about 3 cups when prepped)
About a tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves
Preheat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit (200° Celsius).
Prepare the crust: Grease the pan lightly or coat with cooking spray. Combine the flour, salt, and herbs in a medium mixing bowl. Add the oil and mix it in with your fingers until the olive is distributed evenly. It should have the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Add the water, mix until absorbed, and then knead lightly by hand until the dough comes together into a ball.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle a little flour on the dough and a rolling pin, and into a circle large enough to fit your tart pan. Do this by turning the dough slightly every time you roll it, adding a little more flour underneath and on top when it seems on the verge of becoming sticky. Avoid overworking the dough.
Transfer the dough carefully to line the bottom of the prepared pan and trim the excess. If you’re using a traditional French tart pan, you can just run a rolling pin across the top to trim it against the sharp edges. Let it rest in the fridge for 25 minutes while you prepare the fruit and the filling.
Prepare the fruit and filling: Wash, pit, trim or slice the fruit needed, and cut into roughly similar sized pieces. Combine the cream, eggs and vanilla extracts in a bowl. Add the honey and whisk to blend. Toast the pine nuts lightly and stir into the cream.
Get the crust from the fridge. You’ll probably notice small white dots in it. That’s good. It means the olive oil and the dough are chilled through. Prick the crust with a fork. Neatly overlap large chunks of fruit in circles around the edges, working toward the center.
Pour the cream filling carefully around the fruit. Sprinkle the herbs on top. Place in the center of the oven and bake until the filling is firm and the pastry is brown, about 40 minutes. The fruit may shrivel slightly. Remove to a rack to cool.
Other fruit tart recipes I like:
-Bake or Break: Fresh berry Tart
-The Gourmet Project: Tart with marscapone
-Smitten Kitchen: Strawberry lemon tart
-Cheeky Kitchen: Super quick berry tart
-Gluten Free Goddess: Gluten-free berry tart
-You’re Gonna Bake it After All: Berry tart with sweet cookie crust
Amazon: My favorite French gadgets