Red Wine Tarts with Champagne Grapes

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Happy New Year. I know, I know, we’re well into the second month of the year but since I was away, I thought I should wish you now (better late and all that..). Also, the Chinese (Lunar) New Year happens to be this weekend, so it’s OK to be happy new year-ing now; well, kind of anyway.

I’m finally back here after three long months! My apologies for neglecting this space but when home and family and most importantly motherly duties call, the call just has to be answered, right?

So November was spent in Jodhpur, at home with baby boy. After years we celebrated Diwali with the family; gorged on sweets, burst crackers, dressed up- loved it! In the same month I also attended my first Prize Giving ceremony in baby boys’ school. Only eight and in his first year in school, baby boys participation was in the usual chorus and gymnastics tableau but on the whole the school put up quite an impressive show.

Since baby boy had a month’s holiday in December we all came back to Jakarta to “chill” (his words word). Unfortunately his not so “chill” mom started him on math tuition thereby ensuring daily and heated arguments. In my defence we did then take him to Disneyland (Hong Kong) for his birthday. Of course he didn’t think that was enough and all kind of direct and well, not so direct hints were being dropped at every opportunity to constantly remind us about his presents; the occasions ranged from Christmas and birthday to new years and just coming home and going back to school. I mean really? Maybe this guy was a hostage negotiator in his previous life, or a lawyer, politician maybe, hmm.

So in the first week of the new year, baby boy and I went back to India; I dropped him back to school, saw him fight back tears, trying to be brave, felt proud, felt my heart breaking yet again and started yet another countdown to the next holidays *sigh*. Going to visit my folks helped lift the depression. My sister had come down from Toronto, and all our cousins and aunts and uncles from different corners of the country had made an effort and were there to be with us. And as it happens at family gatherings, lots of laughter, also tears, childhood memories relived, non-stop food and games (cards and twister in this case) till the wee hours!

OK that turned out to be a rather long explanation, but I’ve been away for a long time and I just thought you should know why. Anyway I’m back to base now, and promise to be more regular. Since its February and a lot seems to be happening this month including lunar new year and valentine’s day so here’s something sweet for you to celebrate with.

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This wine tart is simple enough and does not come with a long list of ingredients. Also, any half way decent red wine will do since the wine is first reduced, so those expensive wines you have- drink. Confession – pastry scares me; it makes me want to run out of the kitchen and never return. I just could not get the dough right, too dry, too wet, couldn’t roll it out, and if all of that somehow worked out, shrinkage. This time though, I had made up mind to not be afraid of some flour, butter and eggs, and it worked! I finally managed to get decent tart shells. I realized the important thing is to make small adjustments along the way (depending on the flour you’re using and the climate you live in and the size of the eggs you’re using). Don’t be afraid add a teaspoon or so water if it’s too dry or more flour if it’s too wet. Depending on the size of the eggs, you may require only one egg or two whole eggs, or one whole egg and one yolk.

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The wine taste comes across beautifully in the filling with just enough sweetness so as not to overpower the flavour of wine. Recipe adapted from here.  These tarts are delicious on their own but I came across some gorgeous champagne grapes and decided to add marinated grapes as a finishing touch. Give this one a try, I can promise you won’t be disappointed.

Ingredients

For the pastry

All Purpose Flour/ Maida- 200 grams + more for dusting

Unsalted Butter- 100 grams (cut into small cubes and chilled)

Sugar- 50 grams

Eggs- 2

1 egg (white only) to seal the crust

Cold water (only if required)

For the filling

Red wine- 600 ml

Vanilla bean- 1

Zest of one orange

Cinnamon stick- 1

Sugar- 100 grams

Eggs- 3

To garnish

Champagne grapes- 150 grams (optional)

Grape jam or jelly- 2-3 tbsp (optional)

Red wine- 2-3 tbsp (optional)

Instructions

  • **Use your judgment while adding the eggs. If using large eggs, you may need to add only one, two if they are smaller in size. You can also use one whole egg and one yolk and add the white only if required. The eggs I used were smallish so I ended up using both. So add one egg first, the yolk if more is required and the remaining white if still more is required.
  • Put flour in a medium to large bowl. Add the chilled butter and with the tips of your fingers rub the butter into the flour, till it resembles coarse sand (you don’t want the butter to be totally melted. Add the egg(s) and bring the dough together to form a ball (you can add a splash of cold water if it’s still too dry, I didn’t need to add any water). Don’t knead the dough too much; you don’t want the pastry to be tough, so as little handling and kneading as possible. Flatten the pastry into a disk; wrap in cling film and stick it in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes (more if the dough has not firmed up).  To check if the dough is ready, press it lightly with your fingertips, it should leave an imprint but shouldn’t sink into the dough easily.
  • Very lightly grease an 8-9 inch tart tin (with a removable bottom). You could use smaller tart tins, I used two 5 inch tins.
  • Take the pastry out of the fridge and on a lightly floured surface knead just a little to bring it together. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface roughly 3 mm thickness. Carefully lift the rolled out pastry and gently press it into the bottom and up the sides of the tart tin. Trim the edges and patch any cracks with the remaining dough. Place the crust in the fridge to chill for 20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 200C. Using a fork, prick all over the bottom of the crust, then place baking paper on top of the crust and fill it with baking weights or beans or rice (to prevent the crust from rising). Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, after that remove the baking paper and the baking weights and put the crust back in the oven for another 5 minutes or until it is a light golden brown colour.
  • Bake cookies with the leftover dough, top it with jam and serve it to the kids, or just eat it all by yourself, sssh…I won’t tell.
  • After 2-3 minutes, lightly brush the crust with egg white (to seal it in). This helps the liquid filling from seeping into the crust and making it soggy.
  • For the filling, combine the wine, vanilla, cinnamon and orange zest in a pot and let it simmer till reduced by 2/3. Strain the liquid. I had about 200 ml of liquid after letting it simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • Beat the eggs and sugar to combine, then stirring it constantly and vigorously, slowly pour in the liquid. Fill the crust with the wine custard and bake in a 200C preheated oven for 15- 20 minutes or until set.
  • For the marinated grapes- lightly warm the jam till melted, add the wine and soak the grapes in it. Let it marinate for 10 minutes or so, then place on the tart and serve.

Notes

*Handle the pastry dough as little as possible to avoid a tough crust.

*Make sure the dough is chilled right before you roll it out. If it’s too hard, it’ll start breaking while rolling, if it’s too soft, it’ll be quite sticky.

*If using beans or rice instead of baking weights, it can stored and reused when you bake again.

*Any red wine will work here since it gets reduced so much.

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