Autumn calls for certain recipes; mushroom risotto, butternut squash soup, braised meats and greens. Last week I had the overwhelming desire to make an onion tart. I’ve only made pastry dough a handful of times, but this recipe from Susan Spungen was very simple to follow. Because dough-making is mainly a matter of feel (texture and elasticity), I’m sure it will be even easier next time.
Galettes are at once elegant and rustic. There’s something special about their hand-made, freeform shape; you can see the baker’s craftsmanship. I love that Spungen uses grated Parmesan cheese instead of flour to dust the rolling pin and the board while rolling and shaping the dough. This created a golden brown crust flecked with cheese. Sweet caramelized onions and crispy bacon cover a fluffy layer of fresh ricotta and thyme.
Caramelized Onion Tart
From Susan Spungen’s Recipes: A Collection for the Modern Cook
Serves 6 to 8
For the Tart Dough
(Makes two 8-inch Tart Shells)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 sticks (12 tblsp) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1. Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a chilled bowl and whisk to combine. Cut the cold butter into the flour using a pastry blender until the largest butter pieces are about the size of almonds. Using your hands, break down the biggest pieces of butter, rubbing them into the flour between your thumbs and fingers until the largest pieces are the size of large peas. Use a fork to stir as you dribble in 2 tblsp to 1/4 cup ice water, a little at a time. To test whether you’ve added enough water, squeeze a bit of the mixture in your hand to see if it holds together. Firmly press down on the dough in the bowl, giving it one or two kneads until it holds together in a mass.
2. Divide the dough in half. Place each half onto a piece of plastic wrap, loosely gather up the wrap and firmly press down into a rough circle about 1 inch thick. Each disk of dough will be just the right size for one 8- to- 10-inch tart. Chill until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight. The dough can also be frozen at this point for a month or 2. Slip into a resealable plastic bag for freezing.
For the Onion Tart
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 small onions, cut in half lengthwise and thickly sliced
1 tbslp plus 1 tsp thyme leaves, chopped
1 cup fresh ricotta, drained if very wet
2 large egg yolk
Pinch of fresh black pepper
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan, plus more for rolling dough and sprinkling
1/2 recipe Tart Dough, prepared through step 2 and chilled
2 tsp heavy cream or milk
1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Cook the bacon in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat until the fat is mostly rendered and the bacon is crisp around the edges. Transfer to paper towels to drain and set aside, leaving 1 tblsp bacon fat in the pan.
2. Add the onions to the pan and cook over medium-high heat until they start to brown, about 8 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-low and add 1 tblsp of the thyme and a pinch of salt. Continue to cook until the onions are meltingly soft and deep golden brown, about 20 minutes more.
3. Meanwhile, combine the ricotta, egg yolk, 1/2 tsp salt, the pepper, the remaining 1 tsp thyme, and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan into a small bowl. Stir well to combine.
4. Dust a work surface with grated Parmesan. Sprinkle more cheese on top of the dough. Roll out into a rough circle about 10 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick. Turn frequently and dust with more Parmesan as needed to prevent sticking. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment.
5. Spread the ricotta filling on the dough, leaving about a 1 1/2 inch border. Arrange the onions on top of the ricotta and sprinkle with Parmesan. Sprinkle the bacon over the top. Gently fold the edges of the dough towards the center, creating a 1- to 1 1/2-inch border. Gently but firmly press the sides of the tart dough down with slightly cupped hands. This will prevent it from unfurling in the oven.
6. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining egg yolk and heavy cream. Brush the edges of the tart with the egg wash then sprinkle with Parmesan. Immediately transfer to oven. After 10 minutes, reduce oven temp to 400°, rotate the baking pan and bake 20 minutes longer. The edges and bottom should be golden brown. Remove from the oven slice the tart, on the parchment paper, onto a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.