Lately, it’s been raining with no sign of a reprieve coming anytime soon–day after day of rain. And if you’re anything like me, weather like this makes you crave a warm and comforting dinner that’s sure to raise your spirits. This cheese, leek and mushroom tart with a bread crust does just that–so well so, that you’ll even want to whip it up when it’s nice and sunny outside!
I’ll be the first to admit it, I was a little late to party on the leek front. I didn’t eat one until last summer, and I’m kind of mad at myself that I waited that long, because ever since trying them, I’ve been obsessed. Since leeks are of the same genus as onions, garlics, shallots, scallions and chives (the genus Allium), when cooked, they take on a mild onion taste and smell, and become meltingly tender (honesty, they’re just so good). It’s this mild onion flavor and creamy, soft texture once cooked that make leeks the perfect vegetable to pair with some cream, cheese, garlic, mushrooms and pepper, if you want to create a delicious, savory tart.
I found the base for this recipe in Ruby Tandoh’s cookbook, Crumb, which is absolutely scrumptious! After making it a couple of times, though, I decided I wanted to make this recipe my own by making a couple of changes. First of all, this recipe calls for crème fraîche, which is expensive. Now, someone out there in the cooking and baking world is going to be offended by this, but essentially, crème fraîche is just a less sour and more fatty version of sour cream. Knowing this, I just substitute the called for crème fraîche for less expensive, sour cream. To compensate for the fact that sour cream has a more sour taste and less fat, I add more seasoning and cook the tart for about 10 minutes longer than I would if using the crème fraîche.
Another thing I do differently is add in some mushrooms to give the tart another level of exciting flavor and texture (I would try making this pie both ways, with just leeks and then with the mushrooms added in, because I honestly love both versions). Since the leeks need longer to cook than the mushrooms, I throw the mushrooms into the pot of leeks when the leeks have 10 minutes of cooking time left.
Finally, I like to add a little bit more seasoning to my tart. Maybe I overdo it on the spices, but I’m more of a, “let’s punch someone in the face with this flavor,” rather than a subtle flavor type of person. So, I add a ton of pepper (the gruyere cheese is very rich, so the pepper works to cut through all that richness), some salt, garlic powder, Cajun seasoning, nutmeg, and you guessed it, chili powder. I just think that these spices really work to enhance the flavor of the leeks. If you don’t like spicy food though, I’d say just leave out the Cajun seasoning and chili powder, but keep the pepper, salt and garlic powder (although you can honestly do whatever you want to do; it’s your tart).
Now that I’ve gone through all the changes I make when cooking this tart, there is one sacred piece to this tart puzzle that can never be changed, and that’s the bread crust. This is not your traditional crust; it’s soft, chewy, buttery and everything you never knew you needed in a crust. I was speechless the first time I tasted it; this crust tastes that good. When you pop the tart in the oven, the crust will experience one final rise, causing the tart to take on a beautifully round dome-like look on the top. In addition, the edges of the crust will become crispy and crunchy, working to counteract all of the soft textures going on inside of the tart. Real talk here, I just can’t imagine a crust being any better than this one.
Due to it’s bread-like nature, this crust is going to need to rise for an initial 1 and 1/2 hours, and then once it’s rolled out and placed in a pie or tart pan, it’ll need an additional 30 minutes of rest in order for the dough to have time to puff up again. After it’s final rest, the filling can be added. You’ll notice that this recipe also calls for bread flour. Now, normally I would say you can just substitute all-purpose flour, but if you want a really chewy and mind-blowing crust, I would use the recommended bread flour. The extra gluten in bread flour allows the crust to become chewier than if all-purpose flour is used (but do what you’ve gotta do, man).
And that’s it! Just let the tart sit for a couple of minutes after it comes out of the oven before diving in!
Here’s the recipe:
Leek, Mushroom & Cheese Tart
Servings: 6 | Total Time: about 3 hours
FOR THE CRUST:
- 250 grams bread flour
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 110 ml warm water
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1 large egg
- 50 grams unsalted butter, softened
FOR THE FILLING:
- 50 grams unsalted butter
- 400-500 grams leeks, washed, trimmed & sliced
- 6 whole, white mushrooms (or your choice), sliced into chunks
- 300 ml sour cream or crème fraiche
- 150 grams gruyere cheese, grated
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- Nutmeg, salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning and chili powder, to taste
- 1 egg, beaten, to glaze (optional)
1 LARGE pie or tart pan
Step 1: Activate the yeast by mixing the yeast and sugar in the warm water. Let this mixture sit for about 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes foamy on top. In a large bowl, mix this yeast mixture together with the flour. Then add in the salt and egg, using your hands to roughly combine the mixture. Knead this for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is stronger and elastic. Then knead in the soft butter until it is fully incorporated into the dough. Let the dough rise in a large, covered bowl at room temperature for 1 ½ hours, until doubled in size.
Step 2: While waiting for the dough to rise, melt the butter in a large pot and then stir in the leeks. Cover the pan with a lid and cook the leeks on low to medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 15 minutes, add in the mushroom, cover again, and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, until the leeks are meltingly tender. Once you reach this stage, set the mixture aside to cool.
Step 3: Once the dough has doubled in size, tip it onto a clean, lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough into a large circle that is big enough to line the bottom and sides of your pie or tart pan. Line the pan, making sure to both press the dough into the corners and push a little around the sides so that the dough hands over the top of the pan a little. I like to fold this overhand under the rim of the pan and tack it down to make sure that the dough won’t slide down the inside of the pan during its proving time. Let the dough prove in the pan for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400º F.
Step 4: While the dough proves again, use this time to finish up the filling. In a large bowl, stir together the sour cream, eggs, nutmeg, salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, chili powder, and cheese. Then add in the cooled leek, mushroom and butter mixture. Make sure to go heavy on the pepper in order to cut through the filling’s richness. After the dough’s proving time is up, spoon in the filling.
Step 5: If using the beaten egg to glaze, at this point, brush it onto the rim of the dough. Bake the tart for 40-50 minutes. When fully cooked, the tart should be golden brown on top and the crust should look well risen. Wait a couple of minutes after taking it out of the oven before cutting into it.
Happy baking / cooking!:)