This is a adaptation of a recipe that I found on the Smitten Kitchen blog. It can easily be used as an appetizer, snack or desert–just change the filling and sprinkling on top. I have made it with tapenade and pesto as fillings and Kate has made it with Nutella and cocoa. All were a hit!
The recipe below is for tapenade but any filling that you make that is relatively dry (so it doesn’t leak out) will work. For the prettiest presentation, the filling should be dark enough to contrast with the puff pastry when it is cooked. You can use a range of options for dipping sauces (see below the main recipe for ideas).
2 sheets of frozen puff pastry, thawed for 6 or more hours in the fridge. [I like Dufours but it is really expensive and requires two packages. Pepperidge Farm–which has 2 sheets in one package–works just fine.]
4-6 oz. of black olive tapenade [you can buy this at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods or make your own]
a big dollop of tomato paste (1-2 T) or up to ⅛ cup of sundried tomato pesto or spread
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese(or more if the tapenade is too loose to spread easily)
splash of lemon juice or vinegar (for brightness)
black pepper to taste
1 T of water
Sesame seeds for sprinkling
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Put a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet.
- Make the filling: combine the tapenade, tomato paste/pesto, cheese, lemon juice/vinegar and black pepper in a bowl. Mix thoroughly using a spoon [the consistency should be pretty thick, although lighter and more spreadable than peanut butter].
- Open one puff pastry and roll out so that you can cut a round that is 11″ to 12″ across (you can use a plate or a circle cut out of paper as a guide, having a close to perfect circle is really important).
- Place the first circle of puff pastry on the baking sheet.
- Spread the filling over the puff pastry circle leaving a 1″ border all around.
- Roll out the second puff pastry and cut to a circle identical to the first.
- Using a finger, wet the border of the bottom pastry with water.
- Place the second circle on top and gently press down to seal the edges.
- If possible, place the pastry back into the fridge or freezer for 5-10 minutes to get cool again.
- Place a juice glass or small cookie cutter in the middle of the pastry (about 2 ½” across)–DO NOT PRESS DOWN!
- Using a sharp knife (and a small plastic ruler that has been thoroughly washed, if you have one) make radiating cuts from the glass to the edge to divide the tart into 32 rays. [The easiest way to do this is to make cuts on opposite sides, first to divide into 2 parts, then 4, then 6, etc., until you have 32. NOTE: the end of the ray closest to the center will be fairly small, so consistency is important.]
- Remove the glass or cookie cutter.
- Placing a finger gently at the top of the ray, hold the bottom and twist the ray three times. Do the same with each until all are twisted. [Sometimes it is easier to twist all the rays twice, get them placed, and then go back to make the third twist.]
- If the dough seems soft at any point, or when you are done, place in the fridge or freezer again for a few minutes.
- Gently beat the egg with the water.
- Brush the top of the tart gently with the egg wash.
- Sprinkle sesame seeds (or theory sprinkling) on top.
- Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees and then reduce the temperature to 375 and bake for another 15 to 30 minutes until the tart is golden and the pastry is clearly cooked and crisp on the edges. [NOTE: You may want to rotate the tart halfway through this last time so it browns evenly.]
- Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes then gently, using the parchment as a support, slide the tart onto a serving plate.
- Pull off one ray at a time and dip into sauce and enjoy!
IDEAS for VARIATIONS: For the filling use basil pesto and parmesan cheese; or sundried tomato pesto (well drained) with herbs that have been run through a blender together; or Nutella with sweetened cocoa powder (sprinkle top with sanding sugar instead of sesame seeds); cinnamon, brown sugar and finely chopped (or ground) pecans (also use sanding sugar), ….
DIPPING SAUCE: This is not absolutely required, but adds another dimension to the dish. The easiest way to make a dipping sauce for the savory tarts is to combine cheese (feta, parmesan, goat cheese) and/or herbs (basil, thyme, rosemary) with a mixture of sour cream and cream cheese in a blender, then to mix in a little lemon juice or vinegar (or even hot sauce) to cut the richness. If you are making a sweet tart, whipped cream (flavored or not), hot fudge, caramel sauce, or pureed fruit are all good choices. Note: the rays when torn off will not be very strong, so the sauce needs not to be too thick (a mistake I have made).