I am big on fried potato pancakes (latkes) to celebrate Hanukkah. They never disappoint! But because they're fried, I like making lighter desserts for the holiday; and this quintessential American bistro dessert is a snap to prepare.
Sometimes called a galette in French cooking, this free-form tart has endless variations, and I like to use blueberries for a festive look. The blueberry filling is as pretty to look at as it is to eat. A big scoop of vanilla ice cream or a big dollop of whipped cream or creme fraiche on the side completes the signature blue and white color motif of the holiday.
For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) frozen, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup ice water
For the filling:
2 1/2 cups fresh large blueberries, cleaned
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 lemon, zested
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon unsalted butter, cut into tiny pieces
For the top:
1 tablespoon coarse sugar
1 pint French vanilla ice cream, creme fraiche or whipped cream
1. Prepare the pastry. Place the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor fitted with a metal blade, and process for about 5 seconds. Add the butter and a few tablespoons of water; process until you have a crumb-like texture, about 5 to 10 seconds. Pat the dough into a round form for easy rolling. Refrigerate, covered for half hour.
2. Place the removable bottom disc of a springform pan (10 or 11 inches in diameter) on a heavy baking sheet with a rim so that the pan catches the juices. (You won't need the sides of the springform or tart pan for this freeform tart.)
3. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface into a round 13 inches in diameter. Roll the pastry back onto the rolling pin and transfer it to the tart bottom round, laying the dough flat to cover the round with a 2-inch border overlap all around on the baking sheet. Refrigerate while making the filling.
4. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
5. Combine all the filling ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, and mix together with a large spoon; make sure everything is well blended. Remove the tart from the refrigerator, arrange the fruit mixture in the center of the pastry and then fold about 2 to 3 inches of the pastry edges up around the fruit, making pleats, to look like a free-form tart.
6. Arrange the butter pieces over the filling. Brush the pastry with water and evenly sprinkle the 1 tablespoon coarse sugar over the pastry and fruit.
7. Bake the tart for 40 to 45 minutes or until the fruit filling is bubbling and the crust is lightly caramelized. Let cool at least 20 minutes. Slide the tart pan bottom to a serving platter. Slice and serve with ice cream, creme fraiche or whipped cream.
Tasty tips: You can use a premade refrigerated pie dough crust (such as Trader Joe's), flat or rolled. Make sure to let the dough come to cool/room temperature so it is easy to roll out and then proceed.
(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including "Seriously Simple Parties," and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.)