“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
We are all familiar with that saying, right? I have to say that I don’t agree. Especially when it comes to cooking. I have spent a lot of years in the kitchen working as a personal chef for three years, catering parties, teaching a few classes along the way, and I still feel like I have things to learn. I love taking a cooking class here and there. Besides getting great food to eat, I usually learn a thing or two. (And sometimes I walk away with the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever.)
A few weeks ago, I took a class at Delancey. You know about Delancey, right? If you read Molly’s blog, then you surely do. Molly and Brandon have a friend named Olaiya who is a talented chef and caterer. She teaches cooking classes all around town and a few Mondays a month, she teaches there when the restaurant is closed. I took a sweet and savory tart making class partly because the timing worked for me, and partly because I could always use some pointers when it comes to tart dough.
If you look at recipes for either pie or tart dough, they often come across as overly finicky and sometimes even alarmist. Like if you overwork the dough, or allow it to become too warm, or add too much water the sun will suddenly start rising in the West and setting in the East. At least, that is how I always read them. Consequently, I have always been nervous working with tart and pie dough. I do it, but I don’t like it. After years of practice, my dough almost always comes out fine but I dread the process. Watching Olaiya handle her dough with such confidence boosted mine a bit. She also sent around samples of the dough at its “ready” point and it was much wetter than I have every allowed my dough to become. I don’t know if you have ever tried to roll out dough that was too dry, but let me tell you that having dough crack all over your board and not hold together is not a pleasant experience.
For last Friday’s party, I wanted to make Pissaladière but I wanted to use dough rather than the puff pastry I have used in the past. I wanted to make bite-size tarts and, while I could have made something work with my old method, I was eager to try out my new-found dough confidence. Forgetting that I just bought adorable tartlet molds in Paris, I opted for mini-galettes. The dough was as dreamy to work with as I hoped and these tarts came together quickly. The next day, I made a double batch, wrapped the four disks of dough well, and put them in the freezer to have at the ready for next time(s).
I have to admit – I didn’t taste these bad boys. Brooke sent me an email about two hours before the party was set to begin saying that their numbers jumped from 20 to 30. (Maybe because their studio is air-conditioned and it was 94 degrees that day.) She understood that there was nothing I could do but if I had anything extra to please bring it. I had 28 galettes and I brought all of them. But I feel pretty confident that these were good.
One Year Ago: Asparagus Ragout
Dana Treat Original
Makes 24-28 mini tarts
You can easily cut this recipe or you can opt to make one large tart rather than the small ones.
24-28 cherry tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 large yellow onions, peeled, cut in half, and thinly sliced
2 tbsp. fresh lemon thyme (or regular thyme), plus more for garnish
About 20 Kalamata olives
1 recipe Olaiya’s Tender Tart Dough
1 egg beaten together with 1 tsp. water
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Place the cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle them with olive oil, then give them a sprinkle of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Using your hands, toss well. Place the sheet in the oven until the tomatoes are very soft and starting to brown, about 20 minutes. Turn the heat down to 375ºF and set the tomatoes aside.
Meanwhile, heat two large skillets over medium heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to each one, then add the onions – splitting them between the two skillets. Give each one a healthy sprinkle of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften. Turn the heat down to medium-low, add the thyme, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally and scraping up any brown bits, until the onions are very soft and a deep brown, about 45 minutes. (If you have a cast iron skillet, use it!) If the onions seem very wet, allow them to drain. Set aside.
Remove your dough from the refrigerator. Working with one half at a time, and on a lightly floured surface, pat the dough into a slightly larger and flatter disk. Cut the circle in half and then each half into either 6 or 7 pieces. Using your hands, coax each piece into a circle, then roll it out to about 1/8-inch thick using a rolling pin. Repeat with the other dough pieces. Brush each piece with some of the egg wash and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Spoon about 2 tbsp. of onions into the middle of each circle, leaving a 1½-inch border. (You will need to continually eyeball your onions to make sure you have enough for all the dough.) Pull one side of the dough up, then turn it a bit and pleat the dough all the way around the circle. This will happen quite naturally, just go with it. Once you have finished with all the dough, brush each tart with a bit more of the egg was and then place in the freezer for 10 minutes. Repeat with the other half of the dough, and then with the other disk of dough and the remaining onions.
Bake the Pissaladiere, one sheet at time in the oven until the pastry is a nice golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Remove and allow them to cool on a rack. Before serving, top each one with a tomato and a couple of olive pieces. Garnish with thyme if desired.
Olaiya Land’s Tender Tart Dough
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1¾ tsp. salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. (2¼ sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
8 tbsp. (or more) ice water
1½ tsp. apple cider vinegar
Blend flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add butter; using on/off turns, process until coarse meal forms. Add 8 tablespoons ice water and cider vinegar; blend until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by the teaspoon if dough is dry.
Gather dough together. Turn out onto work surface; divide dough in half. Form each half into ball and flatten into disk. Wrap disks separately in plastic and refrigerate 1 hour. (Can be made ahead. Keep dough refrigerated up to 2 days, or enclose in a resealable plastic bag and freeze up to 1 month. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.) Soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.