Saturday, May 10, 2008

Baetje Farms' "Coeur de la Creme" Tart with Kimker Hill Farm flour crust

I recently finished The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, and though I do tend towards hyperbole, I have to admit this book has changed my life...or at least my views towards food, specifically the food I prepare to feed myself and others.

I've been shopping at two of St. Louis' interesting seasonal farmers' markets, the Tower Grove Farmers' Market and Soulard Market, for years without really understanding *why* I enjoyed the food I prepared from ingredients purchased seasonally and grown locally. The Omnivore's Dilemma, which I highly recommend you read, helped crystallize my thoughts around being responsible for the meals I cook, and one of the conceits of the book centers on meals prepared from locally hunted, gathered, or farmed ingredients. I wondered if I could do the same thing in St. Louis. I decided to start with a single dish, a goat cheese tart, inspired by my favorite new ingredient.

Baetje Farm's "Coeur de la Creme" chevre-style goat's milk cheese is, in a word, sublime. It is the most satisfying cheese I've had in a long time, for both gustatorial and ethical reasons. Steve & Veronica Baetje live and work on their goat farm in Bloomsdale, Missouri, about 55 miles south of St. Louis. Their cheeses and production were recently featured in Sauce magazine [will link once available] and also in a local business journal, which provided a glimpse into the life of what appear to be the happiest goats in the world, frolicking in green pastures and producing some of the best goat cheese I've ever had. The cheese is molded into a heart (hence the "Coeur"), and can be rolled in a variety of organic herbs - for the purpose of my dish I wanted just the plain, which is such a misnomer because the flavor is tangy and the texture is just right for the tart I was envisioning.

I like to make my own pie crusts, having learned from my Grandma Ellen how to make a flaky, buttery crust for both savory and sweet pies. At the Tower Grove Farmers' Market I found locally milled flour from Kimker Hill Farm in St. Clair, Missouri. After talking with owners Denise & Dan Wissman, and explaining the kind of dish I was preparing, I was guided to purchase their 10 Grain Flour and Oat Flour for the tart's crust. Following the classic recipe for Pâte brisée from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I mashed the two flours together with butter, shortening, salt, and water and turned out a really flaky crust.

I also wanted to use farm-fresh eggs, and I was lucky enough to find Sheri's Poultry at Soulard Market. They had organic eggs that were laid that morning, so I bought a dozen of the slightly speckled, slightly smallish eggs.

Finally, I used another local ingredient from Greenwood Farms - BACON!! I love bacon, and this from the Atkinson family in Newburg, Missouri, had a great smoky flavor.

The rest of my ingredients were purchased at Soulard Market, with the exception of the cream and butter, which I purchased from a local supermarket. Next time I'll try to get some fresh cream and churn my own butter. No, really, I'm going to try!

Here's a map of the farms and markets that helped in the preparation of this dish:

View Larger Map


For Crust
1/4 cup Oat Flour from Kimker Hill Farm
1 3/4 cup 10 Grain Flour from Kimker Hill Farm
-or 2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1 1/2 sticks chilled butter, cut in 1/2" pieces
4 T shortening
1/2 cup iced water, plus more as needed

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Place in a 2qt. or larger food processor with the slicing blade on. Pulse once or twice to smooth out the dry ingredients. Add the butter and shortening and pulse 4-5 times, until the flour mixture starts to pull together into small pearls. Turn the blade on and add the water in one fell swoop, stopping the blade just after and pulsing another 5-10 times until the dough just starts to come together around the blade. Do not overmix!

Pull the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and quickly form into a ball, working fast to stop the butter from melting due to heat from your hands. Wrap tightly in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours and up to a day in the refrigerator. The dough will freeze for quite some time if carefully wrapped.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured surface to just larger than 9". Carefully transfer the dough to an 8" tart pan rubbed with butter. Gently press the dough into the edge of the pan, forming the bottom and sides of the tart. Place a piece of aluminum foil on the tart and fill with beans to keep the tart from puffing during baking. Bake on a sheet at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

Remove the crust from the oven and carefully remove the aluminum foil and beans. Use a fork to prick the bottom of the crust in several spots, then return to the oven for another 8-10 minutes. Remove when center is firm and edges are just starting to brown.

For Filling
1/2 lb. bacon lardons - I used Greenwood Farms' smoked bacon
1/2 cup sliced fresh green onions, green and white parts
4 cloves minced garlic
4 cups fresh spinach, washed and dried
9oz. Baetje Farm's "Coeur de la Creme" cheese (1 1/2 hearts)
-substitute with your favorite chevre
2 T softened butter
3 T heavy cream
2 large eggs
pinch of Penzey's French Four Spice
-substitute with fresh ground nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste

Heat a dash of olive oil in a large skillet and add the bacon. Stir over med-high heat until the bacon pieces are browned and crispy. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon. Pour off all but 1 T drippings. Stirring quickly, add the green onions and the garlic. Heat for 30 seconds until the onions start to open up, then add the spinach. Cover and remove from heat. Let the spinach wilt for 1 minute, then stir to begin mixing in the onions, garlic, and oil. Cover again and wilt for 4 minutes. Stir again and let cool (preferably to room temperature but it can be a little warmer if you're rushed for time).

Mix the softened goat cheese, butter, and cream with a fork until lightly blended. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl, then add to the cheese and mix well until smooth. Season with a pinch of Penzey's French Four Spice and salt and pepper to taste.

Fold the wilted spinach into the cream mixture. Scatter bacon pieces on the bottom of the cooled tart crust, then gently spoon in the cream mixture, smoothing with a spatula. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until center is light and puffy and the top is just starting to brown. A knife to the middle should come out clean.

Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then gently remove the sides of the tart pan. Cool to room temperature, then slide the tart off the bottom of the tart pan. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Chris Freeland
cfreeland27 (at)


Kelly said...

Thank you for sharing. I am really looking forward to making this fantastic recipe. I found your blog from your comment on the Kimker Hill blog. I share a love of local ingredients. In fact, I was even about to delve into the butter making myself. I was looking for a churn to buy my mom for mother's day but found this great article instead I look forward to reading more!

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris & Tagert,

Welcome to food blogging! We've got a big group of St. Louis food bloggers. Shoot me an e-mail at ak AT kitchen HYPHEN parade DOT com and I'll add your name to the mailing list!

Nemanick said...

This tart looks amazing. I will try it out.

Nemanick said...

There was an interesting story on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Science Friday about eating locally. The researchers at Carnegie Mellon found that cutting out beef and dairy were more valuable than local dining. Of course, local dining with reductions in cattle consumption would be even better ;-)