Weary of the big ol’ Easter ham? Try a ham & cheese tart

Savory Ham and Cheese Empanada Tart. The rich flavor of this empanada dough makes it worth the...
(Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey)
Story by Virginia Willis
(Special to The Washington Post)
Thu, Mar 28, 2013
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There’s something easy yet elegant about tarts. They are the little black dress of the pastry kitchen, the sophisticated city cousin of rustic, country-style pies.

And they make a fine alternative to the age-old Easter ham-or-lamb conundrum,

Inspiration to use empanada dough for this indulgent, free-form tart comes from Southern Latina cookbook author Sandra Gutierrez. It’s flaky, easy to manipulate, buttery and tender. You can substitute two ready-to-use rounds of pie dough, for a super quick and easy ham and cheese tart. But the rich flavor of this empanada dough makes it worth the minimal amount of extra effort.

The disk of tart dough needs to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes; the rolled-out dough needs to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes; the assembled tart needs to be refrigerated for 30 minutes before it is baked. Reheat in a 350-degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until warmed through. From Virginia Willis.

Savory Ham and Cheese Empanada Tart

  • 1 1/2 cups flour, plus more for the work surface
  • Pinch fine sea salt
  • 8 ounces chilled low-fat cream cheese, cut into cubes (do not use nonfat)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced Black Forest ham, cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the flour and salt in a food processor. Pulse for 10 to 15 seconds, then add the cream cheese and butter; process by pulsing just until the mixture comes together to form a ball. Divide into two equal disks, wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.

Lightly flour a clean work surface and rolling pin. Starting in the center of the dough, roll out to, but not over, the upper edge of the dough. Return to the center, and roll down to, but not over, the edge closest to you. Lift the dough, giving it a quarter-turn, and lay it on the work surface. Continue rolling, repeating the quarter-turns, until you have a dough round that’s about 12 inches across. (If you wish, use an inverted 11-inch dinner plate as a guide to trim the round of dough for a less rustic look.)

Transfer the dough to the lined baking sheet and refrigerate it while you prepare the second dough round. (If the dough seems too soft and sticky at any point during the recipes, stop and simply return it to the refrigerator until firm.)

Roll out the remaining disk of dough as directed above. Transfer to the remaining lined baking sheet. Use a 1-inch round cookie cutter to cut out a steam vent from the center of this dough round, which will become the top crust. (Discard the cut-out piece of dough). Refrigerate both rounds of dough on the baking sheets until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the egg and water until smooth.

Spread the mustard on the round of dough that does not have the steam-vent cutout, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Evenly and loosely cover with the ham, then sprinkle the cheese evenly over the ham. Season with pepper (to taste). Brush the egg mixture onto the edge of the dough.

Slip the steam-vent round of dough onto the ham-and-cheese filling, making sure to center it. Use your fingertips to press around the edges, sealing the top and bottom crusts, then use the tines of a fork to press around the sealed edge. Brush the egg wash evenly over the bare border of dough. Chill once again until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake until deep golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the tart to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes before placing it on a cutting board to slice into wedges. Serve warm. Makes one 11-inch tart (12 servings).

Per serving: 240 calories, 10 grams protein, 14 grams carbohydrates, 15 grams fat, 9 grams saturated fat, 70 milligrams cholesterol, 330 milligrams sodium, 0 grams dietary fiber, 0 grams sugar

Georgia cookbook author and cooking instructor Virginia Willis is the author of “Basic to Brilliant, Y’all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Company” (Ten Speed Press, 2011)

Food, recipes, Tart
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