This is a a super-easy dish to make, that looks impressive and is a great variation on quiche.
At this time of year I usually have a glut of tomatoes, so it also provides a great way of using them up, especially bearing in mind that tomatoes that may not have had their full quota of sunshine sometimes have slightly tough skins and may not be as sweet as those that basked in the warmth of summer. It is the delicious tang of slightly acidic tomatoes that contrasts wonderfully with the flavour and texture of the cream cheese layer which the tomatoes lounge on.
You need a block of puff pastry – this is always to be found in my freezer, along with other staples that may have been forgotten until unexpected guests appear.
Also required is a large pack of cream cheese, and, if you have it, half a packet of Boursin garlic and fines herbes cheese. If you haven’t any Boursin, substitute grated hard cheese such as cheddar, or simply add garlic and fresh or dried mixed herbs to the cheese mix when preparing the filling. Tomatoes provide the top layer of the tart – use cherry tomatoes if you have them, if not, thickly sliced larger ones will be fine.
It is essential to defrost the puff pastry completely so that it is easily rolled out, as the base of the tart must be very thin or you will end up with that horror – a soggy bottom.
It isn’t possible to blind bake this tart, because the base will rise and then be impossible to spread with the filling.
The best way to avoid a soggy undercooked puff pastry base is to use a metal sandwich cake tin or a baking tray, and heat your oven to a higher than usual temperature for cooking pastry. Place a metal baking sheet on the oven shelf when you heat the oven. You will reduce the temperature to medium about ten minutes after the tart goes into the oven. The metal baking sheet under the tart gives an immediate hot contact at the start of the cooking process.
Line the base of the tin or tray with baking paper.
When the pastry block has completely defrosted, cut about a third off and set aside. This is for the edge of the tart. Roll out the pastry base very finely, then put it in the tin; roll out the edge of the tart which doesn’t need to be quite as thin as the base. Finish the pastry lining by putting the edge round the sides of the tin and press the joint where the base meets the edge to make a union. Now pinch the top edge with finger and thumb all the way round to give that folded over look. Place the tin in the fridge to chill the pastry for at least 20 minutes, to allow the pastry to “set” and ensure that it is fairly hard when adding the filling.
The filling of the tart is so easy to make – mix the Boursin and cream cheese (or grated hard cheese) thoroughly, adding garlic and herbs to your own taste – chopped fresh basil leaves will complement the tomatoes of the finished article beautifully. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half, or if no cherry tomatoes available, thickly sliced larger ones. When the puff pastry is properly chilled, spread the cheese mix into the pastry case, completely cover the top with tomatoes, add a little milled rock salt and black pepper, and put it quickly into the oven. Bake on the higher heat for approximately ten minutes, then reduce it to medium heat and continue baking for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Before serving, garnish the top with fresh, torn basil leaves to give colour contrast and serve with a green salad and small boiled-in-their-skins potatoes.
Et bon appetit!