Quebecois Maple Sugar Tart
Welcome to 2012! It is fair to say that we went on hiatus near the end of 2011, and in fact, it would be equally fair to say that we dragged ourselves through the whole of last year with the best intentions but the worst motivation. We always start each year with high hopes and expectations. In 2011, we wanted to share with your our culinary thoughts and experiences, our favorite recipes – both old and new – and the best parts of our kitchen. Instead, we went swanning off on holidays, had a number of unexpected setbacks (financially, emotionally, psychologically…) and decided that what we really wanted, what we needed more than anything, was a break. A long one. So we took it.
The good news is that after spending a couple weeks eating Cheetos and watching Toddlers and Tiaras instead of baking Christmas cookies, reading books about dragons instead of my roster of cooking magazines, and sipping on things that are sparkly instead of experimenting with hideous premixed holiday libations, we’re finally feeling….relaxed. Refreshed. Ready to start eating our way through another glorious year on the interwebs.
For our first post of 2012, here at the Choosy Beggars we’re starting off the New Year with something sweet and simple: a maple sugar tart. One of my goals for this year is to scale myself down and get back to basics, and as a case in point, this is the easiest tart in the world. Maple sugar pie, or tarte au sucre, is a French Canadian specialty that any Grand-Mère worth her beans has her own recipe for. It is dangerously saccharine and rich, but also supremely comforting to nibble in front of the fire on a snowy night. This is peasant food with so few ingredients that it feels like a dither to write our a recipe, but sometimes the simplest things are the best. Sometimes rustic is perfect and exactly what you need as a culinary reset. Sometimes all it takes is butter, sugar, or a maple syrup pie to make any day just a little bit brighter and set you back on the right track.
Québécois Maple Sugar Tart
Makes 1 tart, 9″
- 1.5 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, ice cold
- 2 tbsp brown sugar, packed
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 4-5 tbsp water, ice cold
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tbsp all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 375ºF with your rack in the lowest third. By the time that your oven is heated, the tart will be ready to bake. For real.
Start by making the pastry, which I like to do in a food processor. You could do this by hand, working quickly and efficiently with a pastry cutter, but when you have a mechanical advantage it comes together in, quite literally, no time.
Measure together the flour, brown sugar and salt. Pulse these together until they are combined.
Cut the butter up into small cubes (about 1/4″) and toss these into the mix. Using short (1-2 second) pulses, cut the butter into the flour until it looks like coarse crumbs, and the largest butter bits are about the size of petits pois (that means a little green pea, you guys. I’m just trying to channel my high school French for this one).
Crack in the whole egg and pulse it once or twice, then drizzle in the ice cold water, with a quick pulse or two between additions, until the mixture starts to come together. Start with 4 tablespoons and add more if it seems that the dough is too dry and not holding together. Because of the egg, the dough is soft and very forgiving, but don’t over mix it or it will get tough quickly. The feel should be a little bit sticky and tacky, but not wet.
Without further ado, tip the dough into your tart pan. I should note that the tart pan I use is a 9″ fluted tart pan with a removable base and medium-high (1.5″) sides. That’s important, because if you use a tart pan with low (1″) sides then you will end up with a bit too much pastry and filling.
With lightly floured hands, pat the pastry evenly into the tart pan and press it up the sides. Try to ensure an even thickness on the base and walls, and be sure to do a once around the joining of base to side to press it in so it isn’t too thick and cumbersome at the curve. Any excess dough should be pushed up at the top of the walls; run a rolling pin over the top of the tart pan to cleanly cut off any excess dough and discard that so you have a nice and clean shell.
In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the filling ingredients until the sugar and flour are fully combined and lump free. Pour the filling into the uncooked tart shell.
Carefully transfer your tart to the oven and bake it for approximately 40 minutes (checking after 35) on the lowest rack of your oven. Take the tart out when it is mostly set but just slightly jiggly in the center. As the tart cools it will set completely, and all the puff of filling will come down like a deflated souffle….but, you know, prettier. Because it is a tart and tarts are pretty, even rustic ones like this.
I like to think that if I keep making desserts like this, Martin Picard’s ears will start twitching and he will be compelled to notice me and realize that I am his one true love and we should live together in Montreal and eat foie gras poutine and pain du chocolat all day long. Don’t worry, Mike is okay with my rampant crushing on Picard, even if he doesn’t fully understand it. I think that Hugue is more his style.
Let the maple sugar tart cool completely before cutting it into wedges. The syrup weeps down and fully saturates the base of the tart, so don’t be alarmed by that. It is all part of the gooey, sweet charm.I strongly recommend serving this maple tart with some extra creamy homemade vanilla bean ice cream, but I suppose that a hearty dollop of barely sweetened whipped cream would not be amiss.
So far, 2012 is gearing up to be a good year and we’re ready to get back in the swing of things. We still have a lot to tell you about our Chicago trip, including the illustrious Rick Bayless trifecta, and then there was our December experience at an Ontario deep dish pizza joint that is just a little bit closer to home. Oh yes, and for the first time in months, I’m actually glad to be getting back in the kitchen, so you can look forward to some new recipe action coming your way as well. Be patient, it might happen in baby steps, but we’re not going to leave you hanging. My guess is that 2012 is going to be our most delicious year yet!