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Lee Riggs: The Zen of a Fall Pumpkin Tart

This week I made pumpkin leek tart, which are always nice in this fall season.

Tarts are really easy to make. They look elegant and taste even better. You can use traditional tart dough for this, but I prefer yeasted tart dough.

Before I start with the recipe I am going to make a couple of suggestions. I live outside of Redding there are a couple of items that aren’t available: 1. Crème fraiche 2. Gruyere.

You can make crème fraiche easily but it will take two days to make. A recipe for it will be below.

You can substitute Jarlsburg or Swiss for the Gruyere, but of the two, Jarlsburg would be the better choice. Actually I am going to make one more suggestion: If you don’t stock veggies in the freezer, consider doing so.

You can’t make a decent soup without stock and it is always good to have the ingredients at

First make the tart dough — it will need time to rise

Yeasted Tart Dough
2 tsp. active dry yeast
3/8 tsp. salt
½ tsp. sugar
½ cup lukewarm water
3 T. olive oil
1 egg
1 ½ cup flour

Proof the yeast in small amount of lukewarm water and the sugar.

Combine the flour and salt in a bowl

Lightly beat the egg and add to the water with the olive oil.

Pour the wets – including the yeast – into the dries and mix with a spoon. If you have a stand mixer this can all be done with the dough hook. If you are using a spoon, when it becomes too stiff, turn the dough out on a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic. If using a mixer do the same until it becomes smooth and supple, adding a little flour or water as needed.

Place in a bowl sprayed with oil and cover in a warm place until doubled in size. If you need more time you can punch it down and let it rise ,or if you want to use it the next day, you can place in the refrigerator overnight, but you will have to take it out a couple of hours before you use it.

Pumpkin Leek Mixture

! ½ cups fresh pumpkin
1 cup cooked leeks (about three leeks)  If you haven’t cooked leeks before, first you should peel back a couple of the outside leaves – save them for stock in a bag in the freezer where you can put stock veggies. Then cut the leek in half and cut into half moons until you get to the green part these also can be used for stock. Place the cut up leeks in the sink and run full of water then separate the half moons, then wash and drain the water off and sauté the leeks in olive oil.
3 eggs
½ cup whole milk
½ cup crème fraiche (how to make if you cant purchase below)
7 oz Gruyere cheese, grated.
Salt, pepper, nutmeg to taste.

Combine pumpkin, eggs, and milk crème fraiche and spices

Now take your tart dough — place on a lightly floured surface and roll out into a circle. This is going into a 11-inch tart pan, so proceed with that in mind. You don’t have to roll it out all the way, because you can easily use your fingers to fill out the pan. Place the dough into the pan, which you sprayed with oil.  Use your fingers, starting from the middle, to fill the pan evenly and up to the top of the fluted edges of the pan. This doesn’t need to be perfectly even because it is yeasted and it will rise. But the sides should be somewhat thick, which will make it easier to get the tart out of the pan.

Sometimes you need to crimp a little dough over the edge so it won’t slide down, but you should be sparing about this because it can make it difficult to remove from the pan.

Now sprinkle the cooked leeks over the bottom of the crust.

Next do the same with the Gruyere. You should save a little to sprinkle on the top.

Pour the egg, milk, mixture over the top of the leeks and cheese.

Place in a preheated 350-degree oven on the middle rack .

Cook for about 30 minutes – but start checking after about 20 minutes. It can be a little jigglely in the middle. It will finish cooking as it sits

When it is done remove from the oven and sit on a cup.

Remove from the pan. If the sides stick insert a knife carefully at the stuck spot.

Place the pan on the table and use a flat turner to loosen the bottom of the pan from the tart and remove.

Let cool and serve while still warm.

Crème Fraiche

2 cups heavy cream (not ultra pasteurized is best)

3 T. buttermilk

Combine cream and buttermilk in a container; cover let sit in a warm place for 24 hrs.

After 24 hrs place in refrigerator for another 24 hrs.then it should be ready.

This is good to bring for a party and the host will love you.

Lee Riggs is a Zen priest living in Shasta County who cooked and baked for many years at San Francisco Zen Center.  He is a devoted gardener. His simple credo is that butter is better and that you should be able to taste the hops in beer.