I was so excited when I saw that Tami of Running with Tweezers had chosen savory tarts the theme for this round of Hay Hay, It’s Donna Day. First, it’s been a while since I’ve made any tarts. I kind of tarted myself out in the spring, and after a long break, I was definitely ready for more. Secondly, I’d had this idea for egg & bacon tarts in my head ever since I saw these silverbeet and egg tarts in April’s Australian Gourmet Traveller. A pert little egg baked in a pastry shell, still runny enough to let its golden juices run down your chin and fingers.
What could be more delicious? My husband and likely most of my friends would, at this point, name off hundreds of foods as they don’t share my same love of eggs, particularly the moist ones. But, my favorite breakfast growing up was a simple soft-boiled egg, salted and peppered with a slice of lightly golden buttered toast for dipping. Each dip of bread had to be carefully monitored to ensure that there would be enough egg yolk for the last bite.
These tarts marry the eggs and the pastry… they become the two halves of the whole, still distinct but combined. The eggs don’t disappear into a scrambled mass of cream and cheese as they might in a quiche, but hold onto their glossy egginess. For the crust, I used Donna Hay’s recipe for Parmesan Short Pastry from New Food Fast. (Yes, I seem to be stuck in this one this week!) Along with the usual butter, flour and ice water, I sifted in some parmigiano-reggiano. This added a beautiful richness to the crust, subtly nutty and savory without being overwhelmingly cheesy… perfect for cradling, not consuming, the egg.
Of course, any married couple still needs friends. Fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden and slices of paper thin, crispy pancetta are the perfect accompaniment for these little tarts. Or, perhaps, some chopped poached asparagus and a little hollandaise? There are many simple variations that would be delicious.
These tarts really won’t keep once they are cooked, but they still make a great breakfast if you prepare the tart shells ahead of time. You can blind bake the tart shells several days in advance, and then just assemble what you need in the morning in less than a half an hour.
Parmesan Pastry Shells
(from Donna Hay’s New Food Fast)
Makes about 12 tart shells
1/2 cup butter
2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan
Cut the cold butter into small cubes in a medium sized bowl. Sift in the flour and the parmesan cheese. Using a pastry knife, cut the flour/cheese mixture into the butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Then, start adding the water, about a tablespoon at a time, and mixing with your fingers until the dough becomes a soft ball, being careful not to add too much water. Knead the mixture lightly for about a minute. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
On a lightly floured board, roll out the dough into a sheet until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Then, using a round biscuit cutter or a drinking glass, cut out little rounds of pastry. Reroll the scrap dough if necessary to get all 12 rounds. You will probably end up with a bit of extra dough.
Take each small round and roll it through one rotation (roll, turn 45 degrees, roll, etc.). The dough should be about 1/8th inch thick at this point. Carefully place each round into a cup of a standard muffin tin and gently press to form the edges. Repeat with the remaining rounds. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 5 minutes.
While that is chilling, cut little parchment squares, about 3 x 3 inches, one for each shell. Preheat the oven to 375F.
Remove the tarts from the refrigerator, and poke the bottoms gently with a fork. Then, place the parchment in each cup, and fill with pie weights, beans, rice or something similar. Bake for 5 minutes. Then, remove the shells from the oven, and remove the parchment and weights. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove the shells from the pan and cool on a wire rack.
Ingredients are per tart
1 pre-baked parmesan pastry shell
1 small egg
salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
If using tomato, remove the seeds, and chop the remaining tomato. Place a spoonful in the bottom of the tart shell.
Crack the egg directly into the tart shell. Make sure that your egg size and tart shell size match, or you’ll end up with egg white all over the place. If using a standard sized muffin tin, you’ll want to go with small to medium eggs. If you only have large eggs, crack them into your hand first, and strain off some of the egg white.
Place the tart on the baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes or until the yolk is cooked to your liking. Remove from the oven and let rest for about 2 minutes.
To crisp the pancetta, heat a heavy skillet on medium-high with a little butter or olive oil. When hot, add the pancetta and press down with a spatula to keep it flat. Cook on one side for a minute, then flip and cook another minute. Remove from the pan and drain on a paper towel.