While hanging around at the Mountain View library last week, my eyes were caught by this book: "Everybody Eats Well in Belgium", by Ruth Van Waerebeek and Maria Robbins. That's the book I've always wanted without knowing it. When I lived in Belgium, I didn't particularly look for Belgian food. I didn't do any Belgian recipes either. But since I've been living in California, I miss some of them, especially the baked goods... So I immediately borrowed the book, went home, and tried a recipe. I chose to bake a fresh fruit tart like the one I used to buy at my favorite bakery on Sundays, back in Belgium. The crust is unlike any other pastries I've ever eaten. I do not mean better, nor worse: just different. It's my "Madeleine de Proust". Sort of.
Belgian Tart with Fresh Summer Fruit, by Ruth Van Waerebeek and Maria Robbins(p. 284)
- makes two 8-inch tarts -
Flemish Yeast Dough
1/2 oz fresh cake yeast or 1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup milk warmed to 100F
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour + an additional 1/2 cup if needed
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 1/2 tbs unsalted butter, melted
1. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk in a small bowl. let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir well.
2. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and salt and combine the dry ingredients with a whisk. Make a well in the center. Pour in the egg, yeast mixture, and butter. Use your fingertips to gradually work the flour into the liquid ingredients until you have a smooth, soft dough that holds together. Add just enough flour to make a dough that does not stick to your fingers and can be rolled easily. Do not knead or overwork this dough or it will become tough.
3. Form the dough into a ball and place it in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm spot until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. (An oven with a pilot light is ideal, or preheat your electric oven for about 10 minutes at the lowest possible setting and turn it off.)
2 pounds summer fruit (here: 2/3 strawberry and 1/3 rhubarb)
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tbs all-purpose flour
1 ts ground cinnamon
1 large egg lightly beaten together with 1 1/2 tbs sugar (egg wash)
4. In a large bowl, mix the fruit with the sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Transfer the fruit to a colander set over a bowl to collect the juices. Let drain for 30 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 375F. Generously butter and flour two 8-inch tart pans with removable botttoms.
6. Divide the dough in half and roll out each half into a circle, 1/4 inch thick. Line the prepared pans with the the dough. Press into the pans and trim and crimp the edges. prick holes in the bottom with a fork and brush with the egg wash. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm spot for 20 minutes.
7. Fill the tart shells with the fruit. (Reserve the drained fruit juices.) Brush the sides of the pastry with egg wash.
8. Bake until the crust is slightly browned, 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes or so before removing the sides of the pans.
2 tbs sugar
1 tbs red currant jelly
1/2 ts cornstarch
1 tbs cold water
9. Prepare the glaze: Place the reserved fruit juices, the sugar, and red currants jelly in a small pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Dissolve the cornstarch in the cold water, add to the pan, and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
10. Spoon the glaze over the fruit tart to give it a shine. Serve warm or at room temperature.
N.B.: Next time, I will improve it, by blanching the Rhubarb for a couple of minutes and draining it before use.