ICC’s Onion Tart made by Pastry student Mark Franczyk of Outside of the Bread Box.
So what are you bringing for Thanksgiving Dinner?
You mean aside from my charmingly sarcastic personality and an insatiable appetite? Um, how does an Onion Tart sound?
Earlier this week I received a special request for a pastry that started with onions. And while the classic French Culinary tradition rarely begins anywhere else, pastry chefs are usually more comfortable starting with a few pounds of butter and a dozen eggs.
But I immediately thought of a Rustic Onion Tart, one of the litany of tarts introduced in the early days of the pastry program at The International Culinary Center. It is very straight forward and easily customized to suit the season and personal tastes.
This version highlights blue cheese and cranberries, which seemed appropriate for the week of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving Onion Tart:
Recipe Note: There are three distinct components to this dish – the Pate Brisee (crust), the Caramelized Onions and the Cranberries.
Start by mixing the dough for the crust, as it needs to rest for at least 30 minutes before it is rolled. You can even make the dough a day or two in advance.
While the dough chills, you can prepare the Caramelized Onions and the Cranberries. Once you have both on the stove, they require minimal attention, so there’s no reason you can’t prepare both at the same time. However, both the Caramelized Onions and the Cranberries should cooled before the tart is assembled.
This is definitely one of those recipes that is easily scalable. Why make one tart when it’s almost no extra work to make two? Hell, let’s just eat Onion Tart for Thanksgiving this year!
Yield: One 9″ Tart
Pate Brisee, chilled: 1/2 Recipe (see below)
Onions, thinly sliced: 500g (approximately 2x medium)
Blue Cheese, crumbled: 50g
Pecans, chopped: 25g
Dried Cranberries: 50g
Orange, zested and juiced: 1x medium
Salt: to taste
Seasonal Spices: to taste (e.g. cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice)
Olive Oil: for finishing
A note on ingredients:
Homemade Pate Brisee will make for the best crust, but any savory pie crust will do (yes, that’s permission to buy frozen).
Blue Cheese is a personal favorite, but Goat Cheese, Brie or Gruyere would also work well.
The Pecans can also be easily substituted. Walnuts, Hazelnuts and Pine Nuts would all bring something unique.
1. Prepare the Crust: Roll the previously made Pate Brisee Dough into a circle that is approximately 1/8″ thick. The circle should be roughly 9″ in diameter. Do not worry about rough edges; those will be fixed later. Gently transfer the crust to a parchment lined sheet pan, wrap the dough and place it back in the refrigerator to rest for 30 minutes.
2. Prepare the Caramelized Onions: Cut the onions in half from root to stem. Slice the onions as thinly as possible (try for 1/8″ thick). Caramelize the onions in a medium saute pan over low heat with a small amount of butter, olive oil and salt (you can also add seasonal spices to taste, such as cinnamon and nutmeg).
Using a wooden spoon, stir occasionally. The onions will slowly sweat, releasing moisture, and turn translucent. The caramelization process, done correctly, should take up to 30 minutes. When fully caramelized, spread the onions in a thin layer on a sheet pan to cool.
Chef’s note: Avoid the temptation to increase the heat to speed up the caramelization process. You will likely burn the onions, not caramelize them. Truly caramelized onions have a flavor that develops over time and cannot be rushed.
3. Prepare the Cranberries: Once the Onions are on the stove, place the cranberries in a small saute pan over low heat with the orange zest and juice. Heat the Cranberries and the juice until the juice begins to simmer and evaporates. You are looking to slightly rehydrate and soften the Cranberries, not cook them. Remove the Cranberries from the heat, and set them aside to cool.
4. Once the Onions and Cranberries are prepared and cooled, remove the crust from the refrigerator. Cover the crust with an even layer of the Caramelized Onions, leaving 1/2″ uncovered at the edge of the crust. You can use an 8″ tart ring to gauge the size.
5. Scatter the Pecans across the layer of Caramelized Onion.
Chef’s note: The nuts can be toasted beforehand to further develop flavor; however, watch them closely. Nuts go from toasted to burned very quickly.
6. Scatter the Cranberries over the Caramelized Onions and Pecans, continuing to leave a 1/2″ edge uncovered
7. Finish the tart by sprinkling the top with the Blue Cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Chef’s note: By placing other ingredients on top of the layer of Pecans, you are protecting the fat-rich nuts from burning.
8. Trim the edge of the tart into a circle. Lightly egg wash the 1/2″ border and then roll it inward towards the center of the tart creating a rim. Decorate the rim as desired. Easy designs include impressions made with a fork or knife, or crimped edges made by pinching the dough with your fingers.
9. Bake the Onion Tart on a parchment-lined sheet pan at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-30 minutes, rotating after 15 minutes of baking. The edge of the crust should be golden brown in color. Check the bottom of the tart by lifting it with an offset spatula. The bottom of the crust should be dry and matte in appearance. If it is oily, bake the tart for a few more minutes.
Storage: This tart should be served the day it is prepared and can be held at room temperature.
Another Version – A Tomato and Pine Nut Onion Tart
Pate Brisee (Flaky Pastry Dough):
A Pate Brisee is a flaky, butter laden dough that makes for a perfect crust in both sweet and savory dishes.
The ingredients are about as simple as they come: Flour, butter and water (and maybe a dash of salt and sugar, if you’re feeling crazy).
Yield: About 450g – enough dough for two 8″/9″ tarts
Cake Flour, sifted – 250g (2 Cups)
Butter, cold and cubed: 125g (slightly more than 0.5 Cup / 1 Stick)
Water, ice cold: 63g (0.25 Cup)
Sugar: 0.5 tsp
Salt: 0.5 tsp
A note on ingredients:
If you do not have Cake Flour (which you should!), you can use All Purpose Flour. For every cup of flour used, replace 2 Tbls of the flour with 2 Tbls of corn starch. This will approximate the lower protein content of Cake Flour, which produces a more tender product. Just make sure you mix and sift the corn starch and flour well before using.
1. Combine the sifted flour with the sugar and salt. Place the flour on a clean, dry surface. Distribute the cold, cubed butter over the flour.
2. “Sablage” the dough: using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until the pieces of butter are pea-sized and the overall mixture has a coarse, sandy appearance. Work quickly, as you do not want the butter to melt.
Chef’s note: If the butter is too soft, the flour will absorb the water content and gluten will begin to form. This will make for an undesirable final texture. Place the entire mixture into the refrigerator for 30 minutes before continuing if necessary.
2. Form the butter and flour mixture into a well. Pour a couple of tablespoons of the cold water into the center of the well. Using just your fingertips, gently mix some of the flour into the water until you form a loose ball (or more accurately, a shaggy lump) of dough. Place that ball off to the side and continue the process until all of the dough has been formed. You may not need all of the water. It is better to use less water than more.
Chef’s note: When adding the water, the goal is to just enough moisture so that the flour can hold together around the solid pieces of butter.
3. To finish the Pate Brisee, take walnut-sized pieces of dough and, using the palm of your hand, smear them along the work surface to create a homogeneous mix (“Fraisage”). Scrape all of the dough together into a ball. Portion the dough as necessary (approximately 250g is appropriate for an 8″/9″ tart) and wrap each portion tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes before using.
Chef’s note: The refrigeration period serves several purposes. It allows the butter, which is likely soft at this point, to resolidify. It also gives the flour time to hydrate, more evenly distributing the moisture throughout the dough. And it gives the undesirable gluten bonds time to relax.