I recently took a class on French tarts at my local culinary school, just for fun. I had a great time– I’d never worked with pastry rings before (as opposed to removable-bottom tart pans), nor had I ever made a classic pate sucree to roll into the ultra-thin and ultra-refined French-style tarts. Turns out it’s really easy to do, and the results are fabulous!
Since we had extra dough left to take home, I decided to put it to use making some tart recipes of my own creation. Eschewing rich, heavy fillings (like caramel or chocolate) for the moment, I instead went with something lighter for my first try– a yogurt panna cotta. I find that I don’t make panna cotta nearly enough, probably because it’s so simple that it doesn’t feel “exciting.” So adding it to a tart with a fruity garnish was a natural way to gussy it up a bit and make it interesting.
Anyway, I used my leftover dough but have included the recipe (reduced to a slightly more manageable size, but it still makes a whole bunch of dough) we used in class for it below. The great thing about it is that it doesn’t require you to rest or chill it before rolling out, so you can get your tart shells shaped and into the freezer (still required) quickly. It rolls out beautifully if you’re gentle with it, and has minimal shrinking. Or at least it has minimal shrinking when baked at a culinary school– mine shrank at home (despite being made from the same batch of dough), though I’m pretty sure that’s because I didn’t fill my pan up to the very top with my pie weights the way we did in class (see below).
As for the panna cotta, I’d never made a yogurt-based panna cotta before, but was pleasantly surprised by the gentle tang it added to the vanilla flavor. The panna cotta itself is creamy and light, a nice contrast to the buttery crust. I garnished the tart with some slices of citrus fruit– I used pink grapefruit, blood orange, Cara Cara orange, clementines, and kumquats to get the varying colors and sizes. I love the jewel-like shades of pink and orange and red against the creamy panna cotta background! And as an added bonus, the yogurt makes the whole dish feel healthy– I had some for breakfast this morning!
Pate Sucree (I have scaled this from the original recipe, which made almost 6 pounds of dough!)
450g flour (about 3 1/2 cups)
300g unsalted butter (about 21.5 tbs or almost 11 oz)
150g confectioners’ sugar (about 1 cup plus 2 tbs)
50g egg yolk (just over 2 egg yolks)
30g whole egg (about 2/3 of an egg)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Mix dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add cold butter and continue mixing until butter is pea-sized.
2. Add egg yolk and egg all at once. Mix until completely incorporated and dough comes together.
3. You can use dough immediately, or refrigerate wrapped until ready to use.
4. For an 8″ tart, take a 8-oz portion of dough and shape into a disk. Roll out very thin, until large enough to completely line your tart ring. If this is your first time making this type of tart, you may want to take extra dough and roll it a little thicker to make it easier to work with.
5. Spray your tart ring with cooking spray and place onto a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet. Once your dough is rolled out, roll it up onto your rolling pin and drape it gently over the tart ring, trying to concentrate most of the dough in the center to avoid it draping over the edges– the edges are so thin that they’ll often cut through your dough! Gently ease the dough into the ring, pressing it up against the sides and trying to push it into the bottom edges. If your fingers don’t work well, try taking a small piece of extra dough and using that to do the pushing– it does a great job and doesn’t stick or cause dents in your shell. Feel free to patch any holes or cracks with extra dough.
6. Once your dough is fully pressed into the pan, use a knife or metal spatula to slice off the top edges level with the ring. Set aside a small blob (like a large marble) of raw dough for later use. Freeze the lined tart ring for about 30 minutes.
7. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. To prepare your frozen shell for blind-baking, line it with foil or parchment paper. Fill with dried beans, rice, or pie weights. FILL IT ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP. If you don’t, you risk having your dough (unsupported by the weights) slump down between the pan and the foil, ruining your beautiful clean edge. Ask me how I know…
8. Bake completely, until medium golden-brown. Let cool slightly before removing the foil and weights. If your pastry has cracked or formed tiny holes, rub your reserved raw dough into the cracks to fill them up– the heat from the crust will help melt it into the cracks and dry it out, and no one will notice.
*Optional: Sprinkle about 1/4 cup white chocolate chips into the bottom of the still-warm tart shell and let sit until they soften. Spread over the bottom of the shell to fill any holes and to keep the panna cotta from softening the crust. You could also use dark chocolate for an extra burst of flavor.
Panna Cotta Filling (adapted slightly from Williams Sonoma)
2 1/2 tsp. unflavored powdered gelatin (1 package)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup of the milk. Let stand without stirring until the gelatin has bloomed, about 10 minutes.
2. Pour the remaining milk into a small saucepan with the sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat.
3. Add the vanilla and the gelatin mixture and stir until completely dissolved.
4. Transfer to a large bowl and cool until lukewarm, about 10 minutes.
5. Whisk in the yogurt until well blended.
6. Pour the panna cotta mixture into the cooled tart shell. Place in the refrigerator until set, approximately 4 hours.
To finish, cut peel off of various citrus fruits, taking some of the pith with it to expose the flesh. Slice fruits around the equator to make beautiful rounds and decorate your tart with them.
- Blood oranges vary in color, but the ones that are darkest inside will be dark on the outside as well.
- Seriously, fill your lined tart shell with pie weights all the way to the top, or you will regret it. I was lucky that the crust kept enough height that there was room for the panna cotta!
- The citrus and panna cotta combination was really great– I’m already picturing serving just the panna cotta in little ramekins for a brunch someday, perhaps with little pate sucree rounds served on the side!