In the beginning, I was pretty intimidated by tarts. The method seemed fussy, a little scientific—it took me a minute to process the difference between a prebaked and par-baked tart shell—not to mention time-consuming. But practice makes perfect, and now I feel I have it down.
There are recipes that tell you to be very careful with the butter, not to add too much water, and to let the dough barely come together. Well, I tried that a few times—nervously dancing around the bowl, handling it like a newborn baby—but then, because no dough was forming at all, dumping the whole thing in trash, screaming profanities. So, don’t be afraid of the dough like I was. It’s just about incorporating butter into flour and then adding water to make it all stick together. (If you bake often, invest in a food processor, please; it will improve your life by 87 percent, I promise!)
The dough gets to rest two times—once after you make it, and once after your roll it out—which helps make the tart tender and flaky. And the tart shell is par-baked—literally baking solo for 20 minutes before the filling is added—to develop a nicely crisp crust. So yes, there is some idle time when making this recipe, but you can work on the fillings or take power naps.
15 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup half-and-half or light cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup ricotta cheese
chives to taste, trimmed
6-10 tomatoes (small or cherry size)
12-14 small balls mozzarella
8-10 leaves basil, fresh, finely chopped
Step 1Cut the butter into ¼-inch cubes and freeze for 5 minutes.
Step 2Put the butter, flour and salt into a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse in 3-second intervals (don’t leave the processor running) until it resembles coarse meal with pea-size butter pieces. Alternatively, you can use two table knives to incorporate the butter into the flour. Cross the knives in the middle like scissors, and pull them away from each other. Keep moving the knives throughout the mixture until all the butter is cut into smaller, pea-size pieces.
Step 3Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of water over the mixture and pulse several times (or use a wooden spoon or your hands). Repeat with 3 more tablespoons. Using your fingers, see if the dough holds together easily. If it’s still too crumbly, add another tablespoon or two of water, but don’t let it become wet.\r\nSprinkle 3 tablespoons of water over the mixture and pulse several times (or use a wooden spoon or your hands). Repeat with 3 more tablespoons. Using your fingers, see if the dough holds together easily. If it’s still too crumbly, add another tablespoon or two of water, but don’t let it become wet.\r\n
Step 4In a bowl, use your hands to shape the dough into a ball. Cut it in half, and press each half down to form a 1½-inch-tall disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (You can also do this step the day before you bake the tarts.)
Step 5Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it rest for 15 minutes or until it’s easy to roll out.
Step 6Lightly flour your work surface and your rolling pin, and roll the dough out to ¼-inch thickness, about 2 inches bigger than your tart pan. Fit the dough into a 13.5x4.5-inch pan, and press it down to the bottom and the sides with your fingers. Trim any extra dough that comes over the edges of the pan. Repeat with the second tart pan. Freeze both for 15 minutes.
Step 7Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Step 8While the dough is chilling, line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Trim the zucchini ends, cut it in half, and slice the two halves lengthwise. Place the four zucchini pieces on the baking sheet, splash with olive oil, and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Step 9Cut two pieces of aluminum foil or parchment paper. Place them inside the tart shells and weigh down with pie weights—this prevents the dough from swelling in the oven. Place the tart pans on a baking sheet for easier handling.
Step 10Bake for 15 minutes. Take out of the oven and remove the weights. Prick the bottom of the shells with a fork in several spots and return back to the oven. Bake for 10 minutes. Check several times for swells, and if any large bubbles form, prick them with a fork. You now have two par-baked shells ready for fillings.
Step 11Beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Stir in the half-and-half or cream, and salt.
Step 12Prepare the Zucchini Ricotta Filling. Place the zucchini in one of the par-baked tart shells, leaving a 2-inch space between slices. Pour in half of the egg mixture. Place dollops of ricotta in the spaces between the zucchini. Place several sprigs of chives on top of the ricotta.
Step 13Prepare the Tomato Mozzarella Filling. Place the tomatoes in the other par-baked tart shell in a diagonal pattern, leaving a 2-inch space in between. Pour in the other half of the egg mixture. Place several mozzarella balls in the space around the tomatoes. Sprinkle the basil on top of the egg mixture and across the whole tart shell.
Step 14Carefully place the baking sheet with the filled tart shells back in the oven, and bake until the egg mixture is set and golden brown, about 70–75 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Serve sliced, warm or at room temperature.