Monday, September 3, 2012

Alice B. Toklas Tart



     I won't say I've had my fill of summer berry pies and tarts, never, ever. But I got the itch to bake something nutty.  Enter the  Alice B. Toklas tart. I haven't made this tart in years, it's long over due for a baking. As with so many recipes I've came to love and make repeatedly, I was introduced to this by my good friend Vince. He has a way of finding really lovely, simple things that were under every one's (except maybe Alice Waters) radar. 
     If I remember correctly we baked this commercially for a time when we were both head bakers at a certain downtown Philly restaurant. We used a recipe adapted from Waters found in "The Pleasures of Cooking", a Cuisinart publication if I'm not mistaken,  (and further adapted below). Unfortunately it had to compete with some over the top sugary delights like carrot cake with caramel pecan filling and chocolate killer cake. "A Tender Tart", as Alice B. called it in her cookbook, was far to subtle to stand up to the likes of these. It's a very simple, rustic, not too sweet, hazelnut tart with the most perfect buttery crust. Just right for a rainy, early September day with a hot cup of strong coffee and a book of poetry. 






 




Alice B. Toklas Tart

Crust
1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour plus some for rolling
1 tablespoon raw organic sugar  
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into little pieces 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 teaspoons ice water

Filling
5 ounces toasted hazelnuts (skins removed)
2 organic eggs
3/4 cup raw organic sugar plus some for the top
Zest of one lemon (organic if you can find it)
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon milk

For the dough, combine flour and sugar, and by hand or in a food processor, cut the butter in until the mixture resembles a course meal. Add vanilla and ice water and mix until a dough forms, do not over mix. Flatten, wrap and chill dough for about an hour. On a floured board (I used AP flour for rolling) roll out 2/3 of the dough to a 10 inch circle, reserve and chill the rest for the top. Transfer into an 8 inch tart pan, fitting any excess into the sides of the pan. Dock with a fork and chill for one hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. 

For the filling, grind hazelnuts to a course meal. Combine with eggs, sugar and lemon zest. Pour into baked tart shell.  Roll out remaining dough and lay it gently over the filling pressing to seal the edges. Make 5 or 6 slits in the top to vent.   Combine egg yolk and milk and brush on top of tart, sprinkle with 2 or 3 teaspoons of sugar. Lower oven to 350 degrees and bake for 25-30 minutes or until tart is golden brown and filling is set. Cool for 30 minutes before serving. Yields 8 perfect slices.



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