Once served in homes of nobility, tarts have a long and tasty history
Culinary historians believe tarts — open pastries topped with filling — either came from a tradition of layering food or is the product of medieval pie-making.
Enriched dough, or short crust pastry, is thought to have been first commonly used in 1550, about 200 years after pies, according to online sources. Originally considered the posher version of commoners’ pie, tarts were served in the homes of nobility.
This date and almond tart is a true Mediterranean fusion. The influences here are French and Middle Eastern. Its flavor profile hints at baklava.
DATE AND ALMOND TART
For the pastry:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons cold butter
1 large egg
1 tablespoon cold water
For the filling:
½ cup butter (1 stick)
7 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons orange flower, or orange blossom water
15 medjool dates, halved and pitted
4 tablespoons warmed apricot jam for brushing
Preheat oven to 400 F and place a baking sheet in the oven.
Sift flour into a bowl. Add butter and work into the flour until mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Add egg and cold water, then work into a smooth dough.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use to line an 8-inch tart pan. Prick the base with a fork and chill until needed.
To make the filling, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg. Stir in the flours and 1 tablespoon of the orange flower water, mixing well.
Spread mixture evenly over the base of the pastry shell. Arrange the dates cut side down. Bake 10-15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 F. Bake for another 15-20 minutes until golden and set.
Transfer the tart to a rack to cool. Gently heat the apricot jam, add the remaining tablespoon of orange flower water.
Brush the tart with the jam and serve at room temperature.
Phil Newton is a Galveston baker/cook. He’s the owner/operator of Stiglich Corner with partner Cindy Roberts.