Friday, October 03, 2008

Picture Perfect: Concord Grape Jam Tart

Sometimes you want to run out of your house shouting, “I did it! Look at this, world! It looks as nice as it did in the magazine!” You want to take out an ad in the paper, call the networks, and invite everyone in to view your creation.

Today was one of those days for me. As is often the case in my life, an ingredient and an idea came together to nudge me into the kitchen. The display of Concord grapes at my grocery store was too overwhelming to resist. They just smell so…grape. Most of the grapes these days don’t smell like much of anything, but Concord grapes, with their dusky purple skins, smell like grapes should smell. So I bought a pound or so of them, with no clear idea what I was going to do with them. A pricey whim, I’ll concede, but one that paid off.

To the rescue came the October issue of Martha Stewart Living, which contained—ta da!—a recipe for Concord Grape Jam Tart. A beautiful bit of pastry with a cut out of grapes on the top to both indicate the flavor and give you a peek at the dark mysterious filling within. And it’s nice that it’s something unusual; jam tart recipes abound, of course, but the idea of making one with a jam you’ve made yourself seemed unusual.

Since I’ve been brushing up on my pie crust in anticipation of an apple pie to be made with apples picked 100 yards away from my house, and a pear tart to made from pears picked 100 feet away from my own house, I felt this was a good practice session. Would it be beautiful? Maybe. Would it taste good? Undoubtedly, with the Concord grapes cooked down to a thick pasty filling.

So I am happy to report that it was both.

I’ll admit that my first pass at the jam was disappointing. It was too thin and never did thicken up, even when it was cool. Figuring that I had nothing to lose, I returned the jam mixture to the heat and really cooked the daylights out of it. It almost boiled over, in fact. It still didn’t show any inclination to thicken up as it cooled, but since I hadn’t planned to make the tart until the next day anyway, I put it in the refrigerator and hoped for the best.

My efforts were rewarded with a thick purple product that was just what I was expecting it to be. This was, I knew, what it should be like: not as thick as a true jam, it ran off the spoon and left visible ribbon trails behind it. And it was so purple. You’d have to say purple a hundred times to truly express its purpleness. I’ve read that purple is “in” this season; if so, this is the tart the fashionistas should be eating (not that fashionistas eat tart I wouldn’t think, but if they did, this would be it). It has the sweetness and clear flavor of the grapes, with a wonderful almost creamy texture to it.

The dough pulled together without a hitch, and I rolled it out and prepared to line my tart pan. When it came to cutting out the grape design on the top, I hit a snag. The instructions call for using the non-decorative (if you will) end of two sizes of pastry tip to make the circles. I guess I got the low budget pastry tip kit, because all my tips were the same diameter. I used the plastic coupling ring instead, which was just fine. Also since I didn’t have the sanding sugar the recipe recommended, I used Turbinado.

Brace yourself—the top of this tart is going to sink as it cooks. It’s a bit of a shock to peer in at your beautiful creation and find that the top that floated so gracefully over the filling when you popped it in the oven has sunk down into the pan. But it turned out beautifully in spite of that. Just like the picture, in fact.

Concord Grape Jam Tart

from Martha Stewart Living, October 2008

makes 8-10 amazingly beautiful servings

For the dough

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces

1/4 cup ice water

For the jam

1 1/2 pounds Concord grapes, stems removed

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 cup granulated sugar


1 large egg, lightly beaten

Coarse sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Sweetened fresh whipped cream, for serving

For the dough: Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor to combine. Add butter, evenly distributed around the workbowl, and pulse until combined and mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. Add ice water, one tablespoon at a time, pulsing 2-3 times after each addition. When all water is added, dough will be just starting to hold together. Turn out onto a lightly floured board, shape dough into 2 disks, wrap each in plastic and refrigerate 1 hour (or up to 2 days).

For the jam: Combine grapes and lemon juice in a medium non-reactive saucepan over high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until grapes release their juice, about 7 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve, pressing the grapes to release all the juice. There should be about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of juice (discard solids). Return juice to a saucepan over high heat, stir in sugar and a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until the temperature registers 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer, about 8 minutes (despite my checking this repeatedly, this is the step where my jam flopped, and I put it back in the pan and boiled the daylights out of it, then let it cool down and refrigerated it overnight, and was successful). Let mixture cool, stirring occasionally.

Assemble the tart: On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each disk of dough to 1/8" thickness. Move one round to a baking sheet lined with parchment, and fit the other into a 9 1/2" tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim the dough in the tart pan, and freeze both the tart pan and the baking sheet for 15 minutes.

Using the wide base of two pastry tips (or two other approximately 1" round cutters--one slightly smaller than the other) cut clusters of holes in the dough on the baking sheet to resemble a bunch of grapes. Use a paring knife to cut out a stem-shaped piece of dough. Freeze until firm.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spread 1 cup jam over the dough in the tart pan (I just spread it all in there--the remaining jam was approximately 1/4"; not really enough for "another use"). Brush top edge of dough with egg white. Slide the remaining dough over the top of the tart, centering the design. Press the edges to seal, and trim excess dough. Brush the top with egg, then sprinkle with sanding sugar. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Bake tart for 15 minutes, remove tart from the oven and gently tap the pan on the counter to release any air bubbles. Return tart to the oven and bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool. Remove tart from pan and transfer to a platter. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream, and call the media to witness your astonishingly beautiful feat.


Molly said...

I was just talking about Concord grapes last week. The smell and the taste remind me of all the great grape flavored candies/gum. I just wish they didn't have those awful seeds.

TD said...

I know--I feel the same way. But you know, that's the beauty of this tart--you cook the grapes down so you get all that awesome flavor, but no seeds.

Anonymous said...

My daughter made this tart but we needed a straw to eat it. Shouldn't there have been a thickener in the jam? Because it was runny, it bubbled onto the crust. This didn't look anything like Martha's in Living magazine.

TD said...

I let the jam cook WAY down. My first attempt really was practically liquid, so I just boiled the daylights out of it. Seriously, it almost boiled over. But I figured I had nothing to lose, so I did it. And that worked. Otherwise, yes, the jam would have been much closer to the consistency of syrupy water.

Anonymous said...

My husband planted some native grapes in our yard two years ago and this summer we had an insane yield of grapes! We used this Martha Stwerat reciepe to just make jam from the grapes and it was delicious! Calls for less sugar than what most jam recipes call for.