Ugly Duckling Red Currant Tart
Behold the beauteous red currant. Luminous, plump, tart and sweet and seedy. I made a delicious jam with a little heap of them, and then I felt the need to fuss over them a bit more and made a really splendid tart with some of the jam. I can tell you how to make the tart, one whose flavour and texture are special enough to serve to company. There’s only one problem:
it doesn’t look like much. And that’s putting it mildly. I took at least 20 photos of the tart and I swear, this is the best one. Please don’t laugh. Remember those lines from Funny Valentine? The ones that say “your looks are laughable, unphotographable?” Well, that’s my tart.
So if you want a showy, conversation-stopping starlet of a dessert for someone who only eats Beautiful Food, this is not what you want to make. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a crust that’s tender and slightly sandy and meltingly buttery on the tongue, with a filling that’s tangy and sweet and lightly caramelly with a mysterious undertone of summer blossoms, to serve to people who can see past the surface to the homely beauty of this treat, then try this recipe.
Let me say a word about ingredients. Cooking in France is not exactly the same as cooking elsewhere, because the ingredients are subtly different. The flour I used is a fine, light one, probably equivalent to pastry flour in the US, but not whole wheat. Just use the lightest flour you can find, something low gluten and unbleached. The butter I used is full of large crystals of sea salt, which I think contributes to the texture of the pastry. If you can’t find butter like that, just use the best salted butter you can find. I also made my own currant jam, but if you don’t have fresh currants you could use jam from a jar. Just be sure it’s not jelly, since the crunchiness of the seeds is a big part of this tart. I used crème fraîche, but you could use sour cream. Also, I was inspired by this recipe, but took it pretty far afield. Ok, here we go.
For the currant jam:
5 parts currants
4 parts sugar
Just for reference, for about 400 grams of currants, a little less than a pound, I used the juice of 1/2 lemon. Destem the fruit and mix it with the sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan, then simmer until it reaches 105° C. or 221° F. This only takes a few minutes and the jam will seem quite thin. But currants are full of natural pectin and the jam will set up as it cools.
For the crust:
250 grams/8.8 oz flour
120 grams/4 oz salted butter
30 ml/2 T. orange flower water
60 ml/4 T. crème fraîche
Pulse the flour and butter together in the food processor very briefly. Add the orange flower water and crème fraîche and pulse a few times until the dough just begins to come together. Remove the dough, which will be soft and pliable, form into a ball, and refrigerate for an hour. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, roll out and nestle into a tart pan with a removable bottom. This will be a fairly flat tart, so there’s no need to extend the crust up to the top of the pan. Once your filling is in the crust you can push the rim of the dough down to be just above the filling.
For the filling:
1 1/2 cups currant jam
45 ml/3 T Grand Marnier, divided use
180 gms/6 oz mascarpone
30 gms/1 oz almond flour, or finely ground almonds
15 gms/1 T cassonade or brown sugar
Mix the currant jam with 1 T/15 ml of the Grand Marnier and spread the jam over the bottom of the tart crust. Stir together the mascarpone, almond flour, sugar, and the rest of the Grand Marnier into a thick paste. Drop this paste in small balls or by small spoonfuls all over the surface of the jam. Press the edge of the dough down to accomodate the height of your filling.
Bake the tart at 200°C/400°F for 30-35 minutes. The pastry should be golden brown and the top of the tart should be brown and bubbling. Like this:
I hope yours will be prettier than mine, and if it’s not, well, you’ve seen it at its worst and I’m here to tell you that it’s still lovable, like a dear old friend who greets you at the door in her robe and slippers, hair all mussed, wrinkles showing, and gives you the best hug ever.