The first time I made a version of this tart was for “friends” who didn’t like chocolate. Please, if you are really a friend, don’t tell me that. Call it my own “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. I don’t insist that every dessert be chocolate, but if it’s not chocolate, it had better be good enough to distract me from my cocoa addiction. But I digress . . . .
It’s been years since I last made a pine nut tart, and the few times I made it, I was never truly content with the result. The crust was too thick and dry, the filling was predictable, it took a long time to bake and I inevitably burned the pine nuts on top . . . . But the idea of a pine nut tart always made me happy. For several years now, I have jotted ideas on a tattered sticky note about ways to make this dessert more tempting, biding my time until I was ready to get experimental. Well, over the last few weeks, I was pushed into it by, let’s call it, fate. While strolling out of Maialino in NYC, I spied a lovely pine nut tart behind the baker’s glass, and was instantly regretting that I was stuffed to the gills with dinner and out of time to sample theirs. I turned to Dave and vowed to make one soon. Flash forward a couple more weeks and I receive a text message from my dear friend and fellow food lover, Mary Beth who was spending a long weekend in Chicago: “…thinking of you. Dessert of the day is a pine nut tart…” Oh, slow torture!
At last, I found an excuse to spend my day transforming some earthy ingredients into what they should be: a pine nut tart. Truth be told, especially for those of you inclined to Schadenfreude, I made the crust two times, burned myself twice including one blister, created a giant mess in the kitchen, and wasted (quite tragically) 3 sticks of butter and 2/3 cup of precious pine nuts before perfecting the crust recipe the third time around. I did this for you, my friends, because it’s only fair that you should be as enthusiastic as I with the result, and I was not going to deliver a so-so crust that you could just leave on your plate and scrape into the day’s rubbish. Nope, this is crust you will want to EAT. And that’s just the beginning. The filling is now a tribute to “a few of my favorite things:” Greek yogurt, ricotta, fresh goat cheese, pine nuts (of course), a rosemary simple syrup and to round it out, the zest of a Meyer lemon.
The first bite? It was like the south of France: earthy, fresh and comforting. And since we are about to be buried in snow for the next two months (and I begin to fantasize of living close to the Med), I want a taste of that for dessert.
Rosemary Pine Nut Tart
by Stephanie Kunstle
Note: A quick warning on the mechanics of a tart pan — the bottom pushes up through a surrounding tart ring. It may be obvious to you, but I am always nearly (and sometimes completely) destroying my tarts when I pull them out of the oven by lifting from underneath, with the fluted ring sliding down my arm (burning hot) which is when I proceed to throw the tart to the floor in order to remove my arm from the burning ring. This time, after two burning ring episodes (!!!) I started by placing the tart pan on a baking sheet and never moved it from the sheet until it was cooled. Highly recommended.
Ingredients for crust:
- 1 and 1/2 cups flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted then finely chopped
- 4 oz. butter, melted
- 2 Tbsp. ice cold water
Ingredients for filling:
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 sprigs (finger-length) fresh rosemary
- 6 oz. Greek style yogurt
- 6 oz. whole milk ricotta
- 4 oz. fresh goat cheese
- 1 Tbsp. zest of Meyer lemon
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/3 pine nuts for sprinkling
Preparation of crust:
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- In a small saucepan, over medium-low heat, gently toast the 1/3 cup pine nuts. Keep them moving in the pan to avoid burning them, and once they become a nice golden color, remove them from the heat and the hot pan immediately and onto a cutting board to cool. Chop very fine.
- Add chopped pine nuts to flour and sugar. Mix well and then pour in melted butter and work together with a wooden spoon, and then with your hands. Add cold water, one tablespoon at a time until the dough just holds together.
- Press into a 10-inch tart pan, making sure the crust is evenly distributed throughout and along sides.
- Chill in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
- Set on a baking sheet, and cover with parchment paper and pie weights (or a cup of uncooked rice or dried beans) and bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. Remove parchment and weights.
Preparation of filling:
- In a small pot, combine water, sugar and rosemary sprigs. Bring to a boil for one minute, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Turn off heat and let the mixture infuse for five minutes. Remove rosemary sprigs and any loose leaves. Allow to cool.
- In a Cuisinart (or blender), combine the yogurt, ricotta, goat cheese, egg yolks, and lemon zest. Blend well until completely smooth, then add the rosemary infused sugar syrup and blend for one minute.
- Pour filling into the tart crust, then sprinkle with 1/3 cup (give or take) raw pine nuts.
- Tent with foil, and bake (at 350 F) until tart appears to be setting, but is still very loose in the center (depending on your altitude, this could be anywhere from 25 to 55 minutes, so keep checking it). Remove foil, and continue to bake until the tart is set and the center just wobbles (imagine chocolate pudding- firm but still flexible). Again, depending on your altitude this will be about another 15-20 minutes.
- Let the tart cool and serve either at room temperature or chilled with sprigs of fresh rosemary.