A Tart from the Motor City

by Dan on May 30, 2012 · 0 comments

in blogEATS

About a year ago I went on a daylong culinary tour of Detroit, visiting restaurants, wine shops, and bakeries in the city’s downtown and also in a small pocket of culinary entrepreneurship in the neighborhood around Wayne State University. The centerpiece of the tour was a couple of hours spent at Eastern Market, officially the “Detroit Eastern Market,” an outstanding destination for anyone who likes food (or flowers).

Eastern Market, which sits off the northern edge of downtown Detroit and has been in operation since 1891, doesn’t have the tourist cachet that Seattle’s Pike Place Market or Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal have, but it should. For one thing, although the Seattle and Philly markets give you the vague feeling that you are doing retail shopping in a gritty wholesale setting, you really are not: The stands are there primarily for shoppers like you, not for merchants and resellers. At Eastern Market wholesale and retail coexist side-by-side and you feel the fast-paced pulse of the grocery and restaurant trades around you as you shop.

You also get an immersion, as you should in any farmers’ market, in regional produce, and you are reminded that outside the capitals of locavorism—the Northwest, California, and New England, perhaps—there are many other local-food subcultures around the country. Michigan produces the country’s biggest crops of blueberries (sorry, Maine) and tart cherries, plus lots of peaches and other stone fruit and a whole lot of asparagus, and there are plenty of bushels, flats, and bags of these items available at Eastern Market. You also can find the superlative tomatoes that grow in neighboring northwest Ohio, in the damp, dark soil of what used to be called the Black Swamp, along with grapes and plums from Ontario to the east.

A passing mention of Eastern Market in an excellent blog I follow brought back these memories. Noelle Lothamer, whose blog is called Simmer Down!, wrote that she found some black walnuts at Eastern Market and used them in a tart, the recipe for which you will find below. Noelle writes well and thoughtfully about all kinds of food. A former bookseller, she has spent time in France and often returns there, as it were, in her recipes; in many other recipes she’s an unabashed celebrant of her region’s local foods. In that latter spirit she also has started, with partner Molly O’Meara, a small-batch condiments and preserves company called Beau Bien Fine Foods. It so happens that my favorite such company anywhere, American Spoon Foods, also started in Michigan and its cofounder, Justin Rashid, grew up in a family of Detroit grocers and was educated from a young age in sourcing and pricing at Eastern Market. Here’s hoping that Noelle and Molly, a next generation of Eastern Market buyers, find success in that business, too.

Noelle’s original post from this past January about her Black Walnut, Maple, and Calvados Tart is here.  Here is the crunchy, dark, intense, and enticing recipe.

 Black Walnut, Maple, and Calvados Tart

I didn’t get to do a ton of baking during the holidays, but the urge still lingered. So a couple of weekends ago when we were invited to a friend’s home, I decided that baking a tart was in order. I had just been to Eastern Market that morning, where I’d come across local black walnuts, already shelled, for $4 per half-pound bag. At the next table they were selling them whole, but knowing how difficult they are to shell, I decided $4 was a small price to pay for unstained hands and time saved (not to mention the fact that if I wanted to shell my own, I could forage them for free). I wanted to showcase the walnuts in a tart, so I did a riff on pecan pie, with maple syrup and golden syrup subbed in for corn syrup, and a healthy slug of Calvados for extra oomph. To accentuate the Calvados, I made a Calvados-spiked whipped cream to top the tart; a dash of cinnamon on top of that would not be amiss.

If you can’t get your hands on any black walnuts, the tart will still be delicious with regular walnuts. If Calvados proves difficult to locate or too expensive, bourbon may be substituted.

For the crust:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small (about 1 cm) dice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk

For the filling:

  • ½ cup golden syrup
  • ½ cup maple syrup (grade B is fine)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons (¼ stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup calvados
  • 1 ½ Tbs all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ lb shelled black walnuts

For the topping:

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1 Tbs maple syrup
  • 2 Tbs Calvados

Prepare crust:

  • Blend flour, sugar and salt in processor. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Whisk egg and milk in small bowl to blend, then add to processor. Blend until moist clumps form. Place dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Gather corners of plastic wrap around dough to assist with forming dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap well and refrigerate 1 hour. (Dough can be prepared up to 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated. Let dough soften slightly before rolling out.)

Prepare topping:

  • Combine all ingredients and beat in a stand mixer or with electric beaters until mixture has body and has approximately doubled in volume but is not stiff. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Prepare filling:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk syrup, sugar, eggs, butter, bourbon, flour, vanilla and salt in large bowl to blend.

Assemble tart:

  • Roll out dough on floured surface to 14-inch round. Transfer to 10 or 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom (9-inch glass pie dish can also be used). Press dough into pan and press around the top of the tart pan to cut off excess dough (if you have a lot of extra dough, save it for
    mini jam tarts or other free-form fruit tarts). Pour filling into prepared crust and sprinkle walnuts evenly on top. Bake until crust is golden and filling is set in center when pie is shaken slightly,
    about 55 minutes. Cool pie completely in pan on rack. To serve, remove tart from pan
    and transfer to a serving plate. Serve with maple calvados whipped cream and cinnamon, if desired.


Recipe and photo used by permission of Noelle Lothamer

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