This lovely late winter tart is a tarte composée, or composed tart. A buttery shortbread crust made with almond and whole wheat pastry flours and turbinado sugar for a little crunch is filled with a very thin layer of dark chocolate ganache, napped with vanilla custard, decorated with a kaleidoscope of candied winter fruits, and flecked with a pinch of flaked salt. Each element of the tart is quite simple and unfussy, and most take just a few minutes to make. I had so much fun spinning around the kitchen today developing each component. You could use any citrus you particularly like in any combination; I chose slices of grapefruit, cara cara and blood oranges, tangerines, meyer lemons, and kumquats. The idea popped into my head as soon as I saw that Food52 was hosting a tart contest this week. I’ve had the image of thin moons of winter citrus scattered with flaked salt bumping around in my brain for a few days, and was planning to make a salad of such this week. Since I just made a simple vanilla custard, I imagined they would be happy partners in a tart, so I made another batch, this one stabilized with a little cornstarch. And a thin layer of dark chocolate with the citrus, well, that sounded pretty scrummy, too. Making candied citrus is quite simple. Thin slices of whole fruit go into a bath of sugar syrup, just water and sugar and a vanilla pod brought to the boil, and emerge, syrupy and glowing, like so many vibrant moons. The tart is a pretty burst of color in the midst of an otherwise grey winter day, and a delicious one to boot.
A Late Winter Tart: Candied Winter Citrus with Vanilla Custard, Dark Chocolate, & Flaked Salt in a Whole Wheat Almond Shortbread Crust
Yield: one 10” tart
One recipe whole wheat almond shortbread (recipe below)
One recipe dark chocolate ganache (recipe below)
One recipe vanilla custard (recipe below)
One recipe candied winter citrus (recipe below)
A pinch of flaked salt
- Make the whole wheat shortbread crust.
- Make the dark chocolate ganache.
- Into the cool tart shell, pour a very thin layer of the dark chocolate ganache. Spread it evenly with a spatula.
- Place the tart in the refrigerator while you make the custard. If you have made the custard ahead of time, chill the tart after adding the layer of chocolate until it is set.
- Pour in a layer of the vanilla custard and smooth the top.
- Chill the tart in the refrigerator while you candy the citrus slices. If you have made them ahead, you may place them on top immediately. If you haven’t already, remove the tart from its pan at this point.
- Arrange the candied citrus slices in a pretty pattern on top of the custard.
- Scatter a few flakes of salt on top of the tart.
This tart is best served the day it is made. Serve at room temperature.
Whole Wheat Almond Shortbread
Yield: one 10” pastry crust plus a few cookies
1 c. unsalted butter, softened a bit
½ c. turbinado sugar
½ t. almond extract
1 c. all purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur.)
½ c. whole wheat pastry flour
½ c. almond flour
a pinch of salt
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter until it is smooth.
- Add the sugar and almond extract and beat to combine. Scrape down the bowl of your mixer.
- Add the flours and salt and mix only until incorporated. Do not overmix or your crust will become tough.
- Scrape down the mixer and gather the dough.Allow the dough to chill in the refrigerator for an half hour.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Press the dough into a 10″ tart pan with your fingers, working it into the corners and up the side of the pan. Trim off any excess dough at the top of the pan with a sharp knife and reserve it for cookies.
- Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork.
- Place a sheet of parchment paper into the tart and fill it with dried beans or lentils or rice or pie weights.
- Bake the pastry for 15 minutes.
- Remove it from the oven and carefully pour out whatever you used to fill it onto a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment. The beans or lentils or rice may be used again for this purpose.
- Carefully peel away the parchment and discard it.
- Return the tart shell to the oven and bake for 10 minutes more, or until is it pale golden brown.
- Allow the pastry to cool to room temperature before filling it.
If you don’t have turbinado sugar, you may substitute an equal amount of white, brown, or confectioners’ sugar. Turbinado is raw cane sugar.
If you don’t have whole wheat pastry flour, you may substitute an equal amount of all purpose flour.
If you don’t have almond flour, you may make your own by grinding almonds in a food processor or coffee grinder.
Allowing the dough to chill is best, but if, like me, you don’t always have the patience, you can press it into your tart pan immediately.
Dark Chocolate Ganache
3.5 ounces good quality dark chocolate, cut into shards
¼ c. heavy cream (I love Cedar Summit Farms.)
- Place the chocolate and the cream in a small bowl or saucepan.
- Microwave for 30 seconds at a time at half power, stirring between intervals, until the chocolate is melted. Or warm on the stove over lowest heat, stirring constantly.
- Stir until silky.
3 egg yolks
2 T. sugar
1 ½ T. cornstarch
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 c. heavy cream (I love Cedar Summit Farms.)
- Place the egg yolks in a small saucepan and give them a whisk.
- Place the sugar and cornstarch into a small bowl.
- Scrape the vanilla seeds from the vanilla bean with the dull side of a knife and add them to the sugar and cornstarch.
- Pinch the vanilla seeds into the sugar and cornstarch.
- Whisk the vanilla sugar and cornstarch into the egg yolks and slowly whisk in the cream.
- Stir constantly over low heat until the custard is thick and silky.
According to New York pastry chef Shuna Lydon, pinching the vanilla seeds into the sugar increases the intensity of the vanilla flavor, as the seeds are better distributed in sugar than in cream.
If your custard begins to curdle, whisk it madly until it is smooth again.
Candied Winter Citrus
6 c. water
3 c. sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 cara cara orange
2 blood oranges
2 meyer lemons
- Place the water and sugar and the vanilla pod leftover from making the vanilla custard in a large pan. Stir together.
- Bring to a boil over high heat.
- Slice the fruit into thin slices, 1/8 to ¼-inch thick.
- Place the fruit into the sugar syrup and lower the heat to medium low. Simmer for about 50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. The fruit will be translucent when it is ready.
- Transfer the slices to sheets of waxed paper or silicone mats and cool to room temperature.