Sunday, March 20, 2011

Feasting on Art Recipe Contest

I do love a good challenge, especially one that involves ingredient pairings. When Feasting on Art announced that her second annual recipe contest would revolve around one of my favorite gastronomic subjects, cheese, I could not easily pass it up. Though, I have done an excellent job procrastinating on completing the project, as the deadline is close.

Floris Gerritsz van Schooten, A Still Life of Cheese, c.1585
oil on oak panel, 39.3 x 55.2 cm, Private collection

As much as I wish to be more balanced in my ease in both cooking and baking, baking tends to be my go-to, so instantly that was the direction my brain started spinning. I latched onto the idea of preserving the delicious flavors of spicy, salty blue cheese paired with sweet fruit and rich honey. It took me awhile to land securely on the form this took, as I know it has been done before in varying ways, and when including cheese in dessert-type recipes, there is a balance between intrigue and weirdness. I wanted to avoid the impression of the latter.




Hence, I hope you enjoy this creation. It was inspired by the easy jam tart recipe Smitten Kitchen provided on her blog about a year ago, which she adapted from David Lebovitz's wonderful cookbook Ready for Dessert. I modified the crust by deepening its flavors with buckwheat and honey and added a thin layer of blue cheese before laying down the jam. To finish, a honeyed marmalade glaze subtly balanced the flavors and added a nice sheen to the aesthetic.



I had fun adjusting the purposes in my photography for documenting this tart as well. In honor of the still life by Floris Gerritsz van Schooten that inspired this contest, I wanted to present it in a still life form as if I was setting out to render it with paint myself. Originally my intention was to carry on and do just that, but the afternoon didn't allow for it, and I am about to head into a busy week in which I really shouldn't leave cheese, sliced pear, and this tart (all of which I would like to eat) out in the open air indefinitely. I often wonder how the many still life artists from earlier centuries managed this, regarding food subjects. How long did it take them to finish their paintings? Did van Schooten's enormous chunks of cheese become too moldy? How much food was sacrificed in these endeavors as layers of oil paint dried, similar light was sought each day, and details were meticulously rendered?


Fig Jam and Blue Cheese Tart with Honey Buckwheat Crust

In selecting the cheese to use, I went with Bleu d'Auvergne because it has a creamy richness that is appropriate to dessert but also a relatively assertive spice that would help it hold its own among the other flavors. Any blue that balances these elements will do. I also had the advantage of using a wire cutter to slice the cheese thin, as I work at our local cheese shop. Do your best to get the cheese as thinly sliced as is reasonable with whatever tools you have on hand.

I chose to use a fig jam here because I had a fabulous one on hand. Its rustic texture and honey-like sweetness worked well, but you can certainly be flexible in the flavor you choose.

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup buckwheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, whole
1 large egg yolk
3 Tablespoons honey, divided
1/3 pound blue cheese (see above)
1 1/2 cups jam (see above)
1/2 cup orange marmalade

Prepare a 9-inch (23 cm) tart pan with a removable bottom by thoroughly buttering it.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, buckwheat, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar until smooth. On low speed, add the egg, the yolk, and 1 tablespoon of honey. Beat until all is combined, and then gradually add the dry flour mixture. When the entire dough begins to look wet and come together, remove the bowl and stir with a spatula for a few last turns to bring it together into a large ball.

Placing a large square of plastic wrap on the counter, transfer a third of the dough onto it and shape into a a log by folding the plastic around it and squeezing it long. It should measure about two inches (5 cm) in diameter. Place in freezer to harden until needed for the top of the tart.

Transfer the rest of the dough into the buttered tart pan and press it evenly around the pan. Using your fingers, spread the dough up the sides to the scalloped rim, bringing it level. When this is completed, refrigerate or freeze the dough until firm (I froze it for thirty minutes, and then it was ready to go).

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Lay a single layer of blue cheese down against the bottom crust of the tart. Spoon the jam over this and spread evenly.

Retrieve the log of dough from the freezer and cut it into very thin rounds. Layer each round on top of the jam, arranging to overlap each other and cover the top completely. Bake until the top crust is golden brown, 20-25 minutes.

As the tart is cooling, heat the marmalade and remaining 2 tablespoons of honey in a small saucepan on medium heat. Stir frequently, until it smooths and thins out. Pour through a fine sieve, separating the orange rinds from the hot liquid. Discard rinds and brush the top of the tart with this glaze.

Savor and enjoy! The tart will keep well at room temperature for a few days and still taste good if kept longer in the refrigerator. Perfect for breakfast, afternoon tea, or dessert.


Megan @ FeastingonArt said...

Thank you so much for participating, the photographs are so lovely and your 'still life' compositions are perfect!

Michelle Stiles said...

Stunning photo and creative work all around. The tart is brilliant and I would love to make it one day.

siri said...

Woa, so many great flavors all wrapped up into one! I didn't get around to entering Megan's contest this year ;( LOVE the idea of using the buckwheat flour. I've always enjoyed fig jam on top of really pungent bries, but I can see how it would be nice with a blue too. Great photos!

GrantJM said...

Wow! All it takes is a worthy challenge and the creative juices flow abundantly!! Awesome, Lael ~

Lael said...

Megan: It was a lot of fun; thanks for the opportunity!

Michelle: Thank you!

Siri:Fig jam and brie with a few halved walnuts is my favorite easy sandwich! Thanks for the sweet compliments!

GrantJM: Thanks, dad :)