Apparently some hounds enjoyed the musicians tarts that I made for the NY Beer Garden ChowSocial. Heres the recipe for anyone interested -- it was originally snipped from the May 92 issue of Bon Appetit, but Ive long since misplaced the recipe and cant remember how much Ive changed it over the years. What youll need is a tart pan with a removable bottom (a 9-inch diameter works best with these quantities) and a food processor. A quick note on tart pans -- I love the French black steel ones, but theyre really hard to find in this country. The regular shiny tin ones dont brown the crust as much, but theyll work fine. Id steer clear of the nonstick ones though since I just dont understand what their function is -- most tarts contain a massive amount of butter and slide right out of the pan with very little coaxing, so nonstick is entirely unnecessary and a good deal more expensive. Just another case of a poorly conceived kitchen item intended to separate you from your money...
Pâte sucrée (sweet tart pastry) -- any recipe will work, heres a simple food processor one: Whisk up 1 egg yolk, 1 tablespoon heavy cream, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract in a small bowl and refrigerate. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine 1-1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, 2/3 cup confectioners sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pulse the processor a few times to mix thoroughly. Take one whole stick of butter and cut it lengthwise both ways, then the other way to make approximately 1/2-inch cubes. If this takes you awhile, put the cut-up cubes back into the fridge to chill thoroughly. When cold, sprinkle the butter cubes into the flour mixture and pulse the processor in one-second bursts about a dozen times to incorporate the butter. Turn the machine on, pour the egg mixture in through the feed tube while its running and wait for the dough to begin to come together, about 15 to 20 seconds or so. Once the dough comes off the edge of the bowl, stop the machine (dont wait for it to form a clean ball in the middle). Turn the dough out onto plastic wrap, press into a 6-inch disk shape and toss into the fridge for about an hour. When chilled, roll out the dough between sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper to about 13-inch diameter. Put back into the fridge for 10 minutes so that it firms up enough to transfer easily onto the tart pan. Press the dough into the fluted edges of the pan and fold over the excess so that all sides are double thickness. Toss the whole tart pan into the freezer for half an hour. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Before baking, line the dough with aluminum foil and put in a few bucks worth of the pennies that youve no doubt got lying around somewhere. If you insist, you can use pie weights instead, but pennies are cheaper (pie weights are another item intended to separate you from your money). Bake the whole thing for 30 minutes, remove the foil with pennies, then bake for another six minutes or so to get a golden hue. Allow to cool while you work on the filling.
Dried fruit filling: Coarsely chop up 1 cup of dried pears, 1 cup of pitted dates and chuck into a saucepan. Add 1/3 cup pear nectar and 1/4 cup packed brown sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer for a minute or so. Puree this mixture in a food processor until it becomes a thick paste. Allow to cool -- to do this quickly I just fill a big mixing bowl with cold water and float the saucepan in it until its cool. Spoon out the cooled filling and spread evenly into the tart shell.
Caramelized nut topping: Mix together 1/2 cup of pine nuts, 1/2 cup of toasted whole almonds, and 1/2 cup of dry roasted whole cashews. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter along with 6 tablespoons of brown sugar and 3 tablespoons of light corn syrup, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring this to a vigorous boil, stirring constantly, and work it for a minute or two. Remove from heat, add mixed nuts and 1/2 tablespoon of heavy cream and mix it all together. Spoon the nut topping over the fruit filling and pop into a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes until the filling starts to bubble. Remove and cool on rack. Slice into wedges and enjoy!
Note: The musicians tart takes its name from the form of payment given to itinerate musicians who would wander the Catalonian countryside in olden times playing wherever they could. They would sometimes be rewarded for their efforts with food that would keep well on their travels, often dried fruits and nuts.