The intersection of sweet and savory is a sweet spot for me. I love how the flavors complement each other. And the geek in me loves how they cause different sets of taste buds to fire off at the same time, leaving it to your brain to sort out the sensations colliding in your mouth.
I also love easy, which is among the reasons I tend to shy away from baking. But recently, I saw a recipe for individual tarts using frozen puff pastry. (Yes, I’ve seen – or more likely, tuned out – tons of recipes involving puff pastry in the past, as I’m sure we all have.) For some reason, though, one particular recipe caught my eye recently, and I thought, “I’ve got to remember this. I’ve got to bookmark this.” Of course, I did neither.
What I did do was start thinking about doing some kind of tart, preferably sweet and savory, made with puff pastry. It quickly evolved in my head to the one you see here, with goat cheese, leeks and apricot jam. Goat cheese is wonderfully mild, as are leeks. Together, they provide a savoriness that also has a certain lightness to it. I see these tarts as a light first course or, made smaller, as light appetizers. Something more earthy, like sautéed mushrooms, would overpower the delicate airiness of the puff pastry and clash with any attempts to add sweetness.
For that sweetness, apricot preserves were a given. At any time, there are numerous jams and preserves in our fridge. While we enjoy them all (including various impulse purchases made at farmers markets or while traveling), the one we most often grab for toast, PBJ sandwiches and even salad dressings is the apricot. It’s got everything going for it – the beautiful golden color, the promise of summer afternoons and just a slight puckery tartness that balances the sweetness.
Goat Cheese Tarts with Leeks and Apricot Preserves
Makes about 10 3-inch tarts
2 cups sliced leeks, white and light green parts only
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon (or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon)
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (but keep it cold—see Kitchen Notes)
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water for egg wash
8 ounces goat cheese, chilled
1/4 cup apricot preserves (or more)
flour for dusting working surface
Prepare leeks. Slice off root end and most of the green tops. Slice leeks in half lengthwise. Rinse under running water, fanning layers to wash away any grit. Slice crosswise in 1/3-inch pieces. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium flame and melt the butter; drizzle in a little canola oil (maybe 2 teaspoons) and swirl the pan to combine. Add the leeks and tarragon and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. You want the leeks translucent, but not browned. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Prepare the puff pastry. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Dust a working surface lightly with flour. Unfold the chilled puff pastry and flatten it with your hands; gently repair any tears, pinching the dough lightly with your fingers. Roll it out slightly with a flour-dusted rolling pin. Using a 3-inch diameter (or so) cookie cutter or biscuit cutter (or as I did, a clean tuna fish can – reduce, reuse, recycle!), cut 10 disks from the dough. If you get fewer disks – or more – no big deal. Discard the rest of the dough (or see Kitchen Notes for another idea).
Arrange the disks on parchment paper-lined baking sheet(s). Using the tip of a paring knife, score a circle about 1/4 to 1/2-inch inside the edges of the disk. The dough is quite pliable, so you are essentially drawing a line with the knife tip. Prick the pastry disks inside the scored lines all over with the tines of a fork. This will keep the center of the disks from puffing up. Brush tops of the disks with egg wash.
Assemble the tarts. Spoon the leeks into the centers of the pastry disks, keeping within the scored lines. Crumble chilled goat cheese over the leeks, about 1/2 tablespoon or so per tart (I totally eyeballed this – you do the same). In a small bowl, Slightly mash the apricot preserves with a fork to break up any large chunks of fruit. Spoon about a teaspoon or so on top of each tart, confining it mostly to the center (it may get a little runny during the baking).
Bake the tarts for 15 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. If you’re using two baking sheets on two racks in your oven, swap them halfway through. Transfer the tarts to a platter. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
Keep things cool. This is the first time I’ve worked with puff pastry. Listen to everyone who tells you to keep the dough cold. I didn’t (following a random bit of bad advice about workability) – it was a bear to unfold. Also, if you keep the goat cheese cold, it will crumble nicely over the tarts instead of sticking to your fingers (this I already knew).
Got extra dough lying around? While the tarts are baking, patch the scraps of dough into little strips or whatever and sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar. When the tarts come out of the oven, pop these babies in for 15 minutes. Easiest fun little dessert ever. I got this tip from one of countless puff pastry recipes I looked at. Whoever wrote it, thank you.
Related post: Chinese Sesame Asparagus Salad
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