Date Butter Tart

December 15, 2011

I know.  The amount of tart recipes that I post on this blog is pretty much uncanny.  Tart this, and tart that, sweet and savory.  All I post is tarts!  I’ll let you in on a little secret, though: I don’t own a pie pan.  But I do own a big tart pan and six cute little mini tart pans.  It’s inevitable.  Alas, another tart. Here we go.

But this is kind of a fake tart.  I mean, sure, you have to make a crust and roll it out and go through all of the hassle of any other tart, but these are pretty incredible because when it bakes up, the crust and the filling all kind of meld together into this warm sugar cookie tasting concoction that, quite frankly, was unlike anything I have ever tasted before, but could not stop eating.  Which is precisely the reason why I do not have a picture of an actual piece of this tart – it was eaten too quickly.  Gobbled, in fact.  And I made them for Thanksgiving!  Ha, funny.

All I could think of were the other amazing add-ins that these tarts could have.  Nuts or other fruits or pieces of chocolate!  But the dates in this tart were so complimentary to the filling that I’m quite satisfied with exactly how it is.  I tell you, this tart is so good that you’ll want to make tarts all the time!  Clearly, like I do.

Date Butter Tart (from Sunday Suppers at Lucques via The New York Times)

Though normally I think that vanilla extract is a fine substitute for vanilla bean or vanilla bean paste, I think that this for this tart in particular, the beans are worth it.  The vanilla is such an integral part of the flavor of the tart and extract will simply not give you the the same depth.  If you are like me and are just worried that you will not know how to store vanilla beans and all of your money will go to waste, just get vanilla bean paste.  It can exactly replace vanilla extract in any recipe, and has a long shelf life.  But if, after all of this, you still just want to use the vanilla extract that you already have, I have given you instructions below.

For the pastry crust:

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 egg yolk

1¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 stick unsalted butter.

For the filling:

about 30-35 dates, (not dried – I used Medjool dates)

½ vanilla bean, or 1/2 tablespoon vanilla bean paste, or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

9 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 eggs

2⁄3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1⁄3 cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1. Make the crust: Whisk the cream and egg yolk together in a small bowl. By hand, or in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, sugar, salt and butter until you have a coarse meal.  Gradually add the cream and yolk and mix until just combined.  Do not overwork the dough. Transfer to a large work surface and bring it together with your hands to incorporate completely. Shape it into a 1-inch disc and put in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes to firm up a little.  Place it on a lightly floured work surface, sprinkle a little flour over the dough and roll it out into a ¼-inch-thick circle, flouring as necessary. Starting at one side, roll and wrap the dough around the rolling pin to pick it up. Unroll the dough over a 10-inch tart pan. (Or arrange the smaller tart pans in a circle and place the dough on top of all of them to gently mold.)  Gently fit the dough loosely into the pan, lifting the edges and pressing the dough into the corners with your fingers. To remove the excess dough, roll the rolling pin lightly over the top of the tart pan for a nice, clean edge. Chill for 1 hour.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork and line the tart shell with a few coffee filters opened out, or with a piece of parchment paper. Fill the lined tart shell with dried beans or pie weights and bake 15 minutes, until set. Take the tart out of the oven and gently lift out the paper and beans. Return to the oven and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, until the crust is an even golden brown. Set aside on a rack to cool completely.

3. Make a vertical slit in each date and carefully remove the pit. Use your fingers to press the dates back into their natural shape. Place the dates, slit side down, in concentric circles in the tart shell, leaving ½ inch between each date.

4. If using a vanilla bean, slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and use a paring knife to scrape the seeds and pulp onto the butter.  If not, add the vanilla bean paste to the butter.  If using vanilla extract, skip this step, and heat the butter without any flavorings.  Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the vanilla-streaked butter and the vanilla pod to the pan and cook 6 to 8 minutes, until the butter browns and smells nutty. Discard the vanilla pod.   If using vanilla extract, add it to the melted browned butter.

5. Whisk the eggs and ⅔ cup sugar together in a bowl. Whisk in the flour and salt and stir in the warm butter to incorporate.

6. Pour the batter over the dates in the tart shell. Sprinkle the top with the remaining tablespoon sugar. Bake 30 minutes, until the filling puffs up, browns and is set. Cool the tart at least 20 minutes before serving. 


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