A rebellious tart

Now that I’ve gotten your attention… Today is Pi Day! A day that food bloggers have co-opted and use as an excuse to post about pies. A little silly? Yes. Do I need more than the slightest nudge to talk about pie? No. So, here we are.

Except, I’m not really going to tell you about a pie. I’m going to tell you about a unique tart that is part pie and part cheesecake. I’m just a little rebellious that way, and so is this tart. Because it is incredibly easy to make, especially the crust. This is not something anyone has ever said about pie, especially the crust. And although there are recipes out there for “quick” and “easy” cheesecake…I’ve never been impressed. But this tart is easy, quick, and impressive. Best of both worlds.

crust dough

Now, it works out that I get to share this with you on Pi Day, but this tart is rooted in a recent fixation I’ve had on making labneh. Labneh is yogurt cheese, and you can make it at home simply by draining yogurt for a few days in the fridge. Ideally, it comes out the texture and firmness of a soft goat cheese and is similarly tangy and creamy, and just plain delightful.

The “recipe” (it’s more of a process, really) I used to make my labneh calls for using a full 32 oz. container of yogurt. So for whatever reason, I got a bee in my bonnet to try making some of the stuff, but didn’t really think through what I would do with it once I had it. Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious and I spread it on rice cakes and toast with jam for a couple days. But then it was still there – lots of it. This tart was my solution, and what an enjoyable solution it turned out to be.

tart filling

Back to pie for a moment: I love making traditional pie and homemade pie crust. I like a good challenge, and there are few kitchen challenges quite as daunting as pie crust. I’ve made some good crusts in my day (also some disasters!), but I can’t say that I’ve perfected it. I don’t know that I ever will – it’s like my White Whale. There is something about the mystique of it that keeps me coming back to try again.

But sometimes I just don’t want to expend the effort. Even Ahab took breaks from chasing the White Whale, right?! I imagine many people feel the same way (not about the dorky book joke, but about not wanting to expend effort).

tart crust

Don’t worry that you’re settling for an inferior dessert though. Despite being so easy to make, the crust for this tart works. It is buttery and holds its crunch, as the best tart crusts are and do. The filling is creamy, but also tangy, which saves it from being too rich and heavy, and it comes together in a snap (assuming you planned ahead and have your labneh ready to go). The baking process is also decidedly un-fussy. No need to chill it, freeze it, or put it in a water bath. You do need to be careful not to over-bake it, but that is easily done.

In summary: making labneh is fun, making this tart is easy, and it is a lovely dessert for an almost-spring Pi Day.

finished tarts

Labneh Tart (or Tartlets)

Barely adapted from Food52
Makes 1 tart or several tartlets, depending on size

I made this recipe into smaller tartlets; since it’s just the two of us here I wanted to portion it into multiple servings. This recipe will make four 4-inch tartlets, or one standard 9 1/2-inch tart. I also experimented with making even smaller tartlets in a muffin pan and that worked as well, so feel free to try different sizes to suit your dessert needs. You can get creative with the toppings, too. Blueberries were delicious and complemented the lemon, but other fruit would also work, and I think caramel would be lovely as well.

Crust:

  • 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

Filling:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup labneh
  • zest from one Meyer lemon
  • 1/4 cup frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 350.

First, make the crust. Combine the butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a bowl. Mix in the flour until just blended. The dough will be very soft, but don’t worry, it’s supposed to be (see photo above in post).

Dump the dough into your tart pan. Or, if you are making tartlets, portion the dough out evenly. Then, press the dough out to cover the bottom and sides of the pan, making it as even as possible.

Put the pan(s) on a cookie sheet and bake until the crust is golden brown, about 25 minutes. When the crust is finished, remove it from the oven and lower the heat to 300.

While the crust is baking, make the filling. Whisk the eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla together in a bowl. Then, whisk in the labneh, and then the zest.

Pour the filling into the par-baked crust(s) and spread it out evenly. Sprinkle the blueberries on top. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the filling is set around the edges but not in the middle – it should still be loose in the middle when you give it a little shake.

It will firm up once it’s out of the oven, so you don’t want to over-bake it. Check it a few times during the last 5 minutes or so to make sure you catch it while the middle still quivers. Cool completely before eating…this is not something you want to eat right out of the oven. That being said, we liked it better at room temperature than cold. So, if you refrigerate it, pull it out 20-30 minutes before serving to let it warm up.

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