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Tarts are European pastries consisting of a pastry base without a crust. Often the base, which is a puff pastry is topped with candied fruit and custard (which is optional) or a savory topping of cheese or onion. Essentially, a tart is a baked food. Popular tarts include Treacle tart, meringue tart, tarte tatin, zweibelkuchen( German savory tart), Swiss Cheese Tart, and Bakewell tart amongst others.

History of Tarts

Tarts are believed to have originated in two or three different ways. According to the first method, tarts seem to have been conceptualized right from the time layering of foods came into existence. Now, since breads, cakes and other food are being topped with different foods, one after the other, since ancient times, it can be deduced that the origin of the concept of tarts is significantly ancient. However more concrete thinking points to the origin of tarts being from the time pies have been invented which is a more convincing theory. The difference between pies and tarts is that pies were made of common everyday stuff and were eaten mainly by the working class, whereas tarts were made for the aristocratic class with superior ingredients and, unlike pies, were valued for their artistic appeal.

Ingredients Used by Tart Recipes

Tarts are made of a pastry base which is made of dough made of flour. The dough is not leavened as in bread. It is made by mixing butter or margarine or other fat and baking powder with the flour. A puff pastry, of which tarts are mostly made of, consists of fat folded into several layers of the dough. The pastry has several thin flaky layers. The topping for the tart varies. They may be sweet or savory. Sweet tarts are made with a topping of candied or syrupy fruits; cream, chocolate nuts etc. while savory tarts are made with cheese or onion toppings. Popular

Methods of Preparation of Tart

Tarts are nowadays prepared with readily available store bought pastry crusts. But it is not difficult to prepare the pastry crust at home too. Pastry dough is made with all-purpose flour, butter, and egg, chilled for a while, divided into circles which are rolled out into discs which are baked in pie shells till golden brown. Puff pastries are mostly used to make tarts. Though more difficult to make than un-puffed pastry dough, this is easy to make. In the first step a meal resembling cornmeal is prepared with all-purpose flour and fat. Water is added to make gooey and shaggy dough which is chilled. The dough is then rolled out into a large rectangular sheet, buttered, and then folded again in three or more layers after which it is chilled and baked as and when needed. Toppings of choice are added before baking.

Popular Tart Recipes

Butter tart – this is a Canadian tart made in two versions, the English Canadian and the French Canadian. The tart is made of sweet and creamy pastry dough similar to the American pecan pie pastry and also the sugar pie pastry. Dates, pecans, raisins, walnuts, chocolate chips and peanut butter are all used as toppings for the butter tart.

Custard tart- also known as egg custards, or egg custard tarts these British tarts consist of the pastry shells being filled with an egg based custard in place of the corn flour base which is normally used as a standard base for custards. The tart is baked with the filling.

Treacle tart- This traditional tart from the English cuisine is made of a short crust pastry base and a treacle filling made of a mixture of breadcrumbs and lemon juice in butter. This tart is conventionally served with cream, ice cream, dense cream or custard and is enjoyed warm or hot.

Linzer torte- this is a beautiful European holiday torte. The visual appeal mostly comes from the fine lattice pastry structure on top of the tart. The pastry is made using a variety of nuts, cinnamon and lemon zest other than the basic pastry ingredients and the filling is a jam of red currants, apricot or raspberries. Plum butter is also used as a filling. This originally Hungarian and Austrian pastry has now become a poplar item of other European cuisines as well due to its appealing taste and appearance.

Pop tarts- these are commercially sold American tarts of the Kellogg company. These consist of pre-baked pastries filled with a sweet filling designed for baking in a toaster. They come in different flavors like chocolate, strawberry, S’mores, cherry frosted blueberry and strawberry and cinnamon. Some varieties of these tarts are frosted.

Zweibelkuchen- this savory German tart, also popular as an “onion cake/pie” is made with a tart filling prepared with sautéed onions, browned bacon, sour cream and eggs. Caraway seeds are sprinkled on top of the filling.