Pomegranates give me something to look forward to in the winter. I know, Wednesday was technically the first day of spring…but if you live in New England you’re well aware that spring doesn’t actually make an appearance in our corner of the country until April. Maybe even late April this year, considering it snowed just last night.
Now for my tart caveat. I don’t go baking them for just anyone. Tarts are time consuming and require patience, something I admittedly don’t usually have. With that said, I tend to save them for special occasions, like today. March 22nd. So much love went into this pomegranate tart, the birthday “cake” for one of the most wonderful people in my world. So here’s a shout out to the birthday girl, Ronay.
makes 1 tart
useful gadgets: food processor, tart pan, hand mixer
sweet tart dough:
adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours
1 ½ cups flour
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 stick butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking
1 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
⅔ cup flour
2 cups whole milk, boiling
1 tbsp butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp Grand Marnier
3-4 cups pomegranate seeds
red currant jelly
To make the sweet tart dough, combine the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor. Pulse a few times and add the pieces of chilled butter, one at a time. The mixture will be more coarse and resemble pea-size pieces.
Stir the egg in a separate bowl to break it up and pour it in the top of the food processor as it’s pulsing. Continue to pulse the mixture until the egg is completely combined. The dough will change consistency and start forming a ball. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead it just to incorporate any leftover dry ingredients. You don’t want to handle the dough too much because it’ll lose the flakiness that we all love about crusts.
Now to get the dough into the tart pan without too much work. You can either press it in with your fingers or make a rolled out crust. I usually opt to roll the dough because it looks a bit nicer and you can always using your fingers to even it out. Make sure to roll the dough in between wax paper or silpats and floured both sides to prevent it from sticking. The dough is very soft so handle it carefully. When it’s rolled into a circle large enough to fit in the tart pan, lift up the top piece of parchment paper or silpat and gently invert it to center into the tart pan. Trim the excess dough and use your fingers to fit the dough into the side grooves.
Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes in the tart pan, or make ahead up to a month beforehand. If you’re going the make ahead route, freeze the dough already in the tart pan. It retains it’s flavor better and the frozen dough will be harder to work with down the road if you just freeze it in a ball. Wrap the tart pan in aluminum foil if you’re freezing for a long period of time.
After the tart shell has been in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, take it out and preheat the oven to 350°. Prick the bottom of the tart shell with a fork and line it with foil. Place pie weights or dried beans on top of the foil and bake the tart shell for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and pie weights and continue to bake the tart shell for another 10 minutes, or until it’s golden brown. When it’s done, let it cool completely before trying to separate it from the tart pan. The bottom part doesn’t necessarily need to come off. I leave it on just as a preventative measure. After all that work the last thing I want is a tart shell with a cracked bottom!
To prepare the pastry cream, put the milk in a sauce pan over medium-high heat to boil. Beat the sugar and egg yolks for 2 to 3 minutes until the color turns a pale yellow. Incorporate the flour and gradually pour in the boiling milk. Beat with a hand mixer until the mixture is the same consistency. Pour it back into the saucepan you used for the milk and turn the burner to medium-high. Stir continuously either with a wire whisk or a hand mixer. Make sure whatever you use reaches the bottom of the pan so the cream doesn’t burn. When the sauce starts to come to a boil, it’ll look lumpy, but don’t worry because it’ll smooth out as you beat it. When the cream reaches a boil, turn the heat down and continue to beat it continuously for another 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove the saucepan from the burner and beat in the butter. Add the vanilla and Grand Marnier and incorporate well. Pour the cream right into the cooled tart shell, otherwise a skin will form over the surface. If you’re going to wait to use the cream, put another tablespoon of butter on the top. Believe it or not, this will stop that hardish skin from forming.
Cover the top with pomegranates so you can’t see any of the cream. If you can find fresh pomegranates, it should take about 2. Otherwise, buy 4-5 of the pomegranate seed packages.
Melt the jelly in the microwave and evenly spread over the top so the pomegranates stick to the pastry cream and stay on top of the pieces when cut. Drizzle a little honey on top and push in the pomegranates to make sure they stick.
And voila. Pomegranate tart. Or in this case…birthday cake.