Review of Tarts by Frédéric Anton and Christelle Brua

Tarts coverFrom the moment I released Tarts from its humble brown shipping envelope, I was smitten by its pure artistic beauty. I immediately judged this book by the cover – truly the best word to describe it is stunning. Stunning not in the way that books about ethnic cuisine grab your heart with feelings of home and family but purely by its style and aesthetics at first glance.

The black front and back covers are beautiful, the front adored with a golden tart and the back with a dozen globes of tart tops. The photographs of every showpiece tart are strikingly set off by the black pages. Gorgeous circles of glorious color on a stark black background scream perfection in a whispered, high quality yet unpretentious tone.

Michelin-starred chef Frédéric Anton and renowned pastry chef Christelle Brua have collected a selection of tarts that hit all the notes – classic and modern, sweet and savory and present them with 130 photographs by Richard Haughton. Each tart is photographed as circles of deliciousness that could easily be perceived as far too gourmet and complicated for us mere mortals. This book, however is not all style and puffery, there is substance behind Tarts. The recipes contain clear cut instructions that are detailed, yet concise, and simple to follow.

I tested the Peach Clafoutis that required a few steps plus making the Sweet PastryPeach clafoutis Dough. I’ve made a vast array of dough variations before but this one was quick and yielded a perfect buttery bite that was sturdy enough to hold the filling while still being tender. I modified the recipe by slicing the peaches because I didn’t take the time and care to realize that the peaches are left whole but halved. This didn’t result in any issues in taste but my tart didn’t look as splendid as the beautifully presented tart in the book photo with the half-spheres resting in the clafoutis cream. I also played around with other flavors by making them into smaller tarts – I made the Bananas Rum version that was out of this world and as my husband is not a fan of fruit – I threw together a pecan adaption. The peach clafoutis tart was reminiscent of a true clafoutis I had in Paris. I’ve made others that were more cake-like in texture – Anton’s recipe appears to be perfect.

Jenny's mixed tartsOne of my favorite aspects of a dessert book is the mixing of sweet and savory. This title contains a collection of both. Savory recipes include recipes utilizing ingredients such as foie gras, fresh porcini mushrooms, vegetables and more. The sweet varieties cover fruit, cream and chocolate combinations both classic and contemporary. I particularly love the inclusion of pizza tarts, flans and pastillas. The doughs section shares ten different variations from Bread Dough, Páte Brisée, Puff Pastry and more.

Tarts will teach the novice the fine art of tart preparation as well as refine the more experienced baker’s craft. I highly recommend this title for the baker (or French pastry chef) in all of us.

Photos for test recipes by Jenny Hartin. Jenny is an enthusiastic home cook who lives in Colorado, owns the website The Cookbook Junkies and runs the Facebook group also called The Cookbook Junkies. The Facebook group is a closed group of 30,000 cookbook fans – new members are welcome.

Peach Clafoutis

Preparation 2 hours 15 minutes (for the tart dough) and
20 minutes (for the filling) Rest 1 hour Cooking 30 minutes

1 recipe Sweet Pastry Dough (recipe below)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, for rolling out the dough

14 ounces white peaches

Poaching Syrup
2¼ cup superfine sugar
Juice of 1 small lemon
1 tablespoon acacia honey

Clafoutis Cream
7 tablespoons heavy cream
1 egg
3 tablespoons superfine sugar
2 tablespoons pêche de vigne or peach brandy

Preheat the oven to 320° F. On a floured work surface, roll out the Sweet Pastry Dough to 1/16th inch thick with a rolling pin. Place the dough in a tart ring. Crimp the edges. Dock the crust by lightly pricking it all over with a fork. Chill the prepared dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Pre-bake this tart base at 320° F for 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Prepare the filling. Cut the peaches in half and remove their pits, being careful not to break the fruit. Set the peach halves aside in the fridge.

Make the poaching syrup. Combine 4¼ cups of water and the sugar in a pot. Add the lemon juice and the honey, and bring to a boil. Place the peach halves in the liquid and cook for 6 minutes. Remove the peaches from the liquid and drain them on a rack. Chill the peaches.

Make the clafoutis cream. Mix the cream, the eggs, and the sugar together. Add the brandy. Strain the mixture and set aside.

Increase the oven temperature to 350° F. Delicately arrange the peach halves over the bottom of the cooled tart crust. Pour the clafoutis cream over the peaches to cover. Bake for 15 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Sweet Pastry Dough
Serves 4 to 6
Preparation 15 minutes
Rest 2 hours

½ cup (1 stick, 125 grams) unsalted butter
½ cup (115 grams) superfine sugar
scant 2½ cups (300 grams) all-purpose flour
5 egg yolks

Mix the softened butter with an electric beater. Add the sugar, the flour and the egg yolks. Knead the ingredients together until they are evenly combined. Bring the dough together into a nice, even ball. Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap.

Chill the dough for 2 hours, until firm. The sweet pastry dough is ready to be used.

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One Comment

  • TinaMarie122  on  August 10, 2016

    Though not a baker of tarts, I am tempted to buy this book for the sheer beauty of it that I imagine from the description. This review reads like some of the best food writing I've ever spent time reading…and I've read lots.
    With this book, I might actually be able to produce a tart. Wow. I feel more drawn to the savory tarts than the sweet but that might just be my mood at the moment. I am going to look into this one… I see a future winter baking day ahead!

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