Saturday, February 9, 2013

A sweet puff pastry tart

When you decide to make your own French puff pastry and you have that gorgeous dough sitting in your fridge, you don’t just stop at a tyropita (Greek cheese pie) but you think of something else to make as well. Something sweet this time.

My recipe for puff pastry yields quite a lot so whenever I make it, which is every couple of months or so, I always come up with a different version of what you see here, a puff pastry tart. During spring and summer it’s made with lots of different colorful fruits and during winter it’s made invariably with a little or, a lot of chocolate.

This version has all the good things gathered into one. Puff pastry, mascarpone, vanilla, chocolate, hazelnut praline.

The puff pastry is a miracle all on its own, especially when it’s made with your own two hands; the buttery, flaky and slightly caramelized dough begs to be bitten into. The mascarpone, sweetened by icing sugar and flavored with vanilla, is creamy and smooth, and the praline, that crunchy hazelnut-caramel concoction, is simply divine.

Praline is another little miracle of the pastry arts. It all starts with a simple caramel to which you add toasted or roasted hazelnuts (or almonds if you’re making almond praline). You stir everything around to coat each little nut with the golden-colored caramel and then spread it on a baking sheet. Once cooled and set, it goes in the food processor and from then on, three glorious things can come of it.

You can make a crushed hazelnut praline with small, visible pieces of hazelnut and caramel, a praline powder, or a praline paste. All three are full of flavor and texture and are so incredibly versatile that you can use them in or on cakes, tortes, ice creams, frankly any dessert can benefit from a little hazelnut praline.

But back to this tart which, incidentally, disappeared in a matter of minutes. It came as no surprise to me since who can possibly resist a crisped puff pastry filled with a sweet, billowy mascarpone cream, speckled with hundreds of diminutive vanilla seeds, a crunchy praline and piped dark chocolate? Well, no one.

Puff Pastry Tart with Vanilla Mascarpone, Crushed Hazelnut Praline and Melted Chocolate

I egg-washed and sprinkled the dough with caster sugar before baking it in order to primarily sweeten it, but to also caramelize it a bit, hence the dark color. Keep a close eye on it while baking though since the sugar tends to burn easily and gives off a bitter taste. I also made lots and lots of small holes in the raw dough because I didn’t want it to puff up like crazy.

As with the tyropita, I used homemade French puff pastry but you can certainly use store-bought, just make sure it’s made with butter. Whichever kind of puff pastry you use, make sure to thaw it properly. Remove it from the freezer and place it in the fridge 24 hours before using it.

Yield: 6 servings

350 g homemade puff pastry or 1 sheet of ready-made puff pastry
1 small egg, lightly beaten with a fork
2 Tbsp caster sugar
300 g mascarpone
1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise and deseeded or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
30 g icing sugar
Hazelnut praline (see recipe below)
70 g good quality dark chocolate 60% cocoa solids, cut into small pieces

Icing sugar, for dusting the tart

Special equipment: rolling pin (to roll out homemade puff pastry), baking paper, baking sheet, plastic wrap, pastry brush, hand-held mixer

If you’re using homemade puff pastry, dust a clean work surface and the top of the dough with a little flour and using a rolling pin, roll it out into an approximately 25 x 30 cm rectangle with a thickness of 0.3-0.4 cm. The thickness of the puff pastry is important because it determines the baking time. Trim off the edges of the dough, lightly score with a knife a frame and prick the dough inside that frame all over with a fork. This will prevent it from rising too much. Place the rolled out dough onto a piece of baking paper and onto your baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator.

Preheat your oven 185-190 degrees Celsius / 365-375 Fahrenheit.

Take the baking sheet out of the fridge, brush the dough with some of the beaten egg and sprinkle it with the sugar. Place the baking sheet straight in the preheated oven, on the low rack, and bake the puff pastry for 10 minutes. Then transfer it to the middle rack and bake for 15-20 minutes, until it has puffed and taken on a golden-brown color and the sugar has caramelized on top. Be careful not to burn it.

In the meantime, in a medium-sized bowl, add the mascarpone, scraped vanilla seeds or paste and the icing sugar and beat with a hand-held mixer until you have a creamy and smooth mixture.

Remove the puff pastry from the oven and allow it to cool.

Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie or in the microwave for a couple of minutes at 600 watts (I don’t usually melt chocolate in the microwave but for this small amount of chocolate it’s not worth the trouble of a bain-marie) and pour it into a cornet (paper cone) (you can watch this video on how to make one yourself).

Once the puff pastry has cooled, sprinkle it all over the top with some icing sugar and using a small offset spatula, cover it with the vanilla mascarpone. Sprinkle with lots of crushed hazelnut praline and pipe the melted chocolate on top to create a stripe pattern.

Serve your tart immediately cut into pieces.

Hazelnut Praline

As mentioned in the main body of the post, hazelnut praline can be processed to a chunky consistency, to a powder, or a paste, and it’s one of those useful and interesting recipes to have in your arsenal. And it’s very easy to make as well.

I used blanched hazelnuts but you can also use hazelnuts with skin. You’ll need to roast them on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes in a 175 degrees Celsius / 350 Fahrenheit preheated oven, checking them regularly and being careful not to burn them. Remove them from the oven and place them on a clean kitchen towel. Once cool, rub them while still inside the towel to remove their skins and use according to the recipe below.

Yield: about 250 g

130 g blanched unsalted hazelnuts
150 g caster sugar
60 ml water

Special equipment: baking sheet, baking paper or silicone sheet, candy thermometer (optional), small food processor

In a small skillet or sauté pan add the blanched hazelnuts and place over a medium heat. Toast the nuts, stirring often so they don’t get burned, until they become fragrant and brown lightly. Transfer them to a small bowl.

Line your baking sheet with baking paper or a silicone sheet.

In a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the sugar and water and place over a medium heat. Stir with a heatproof spatula until the sugar dissolves in the water, turn heat up to medium-high and then allow the magic to happen. The sugar will start to boil, do not stir at all because it will crystallize and it will be ruined, but stay close and keep an eye on it because you don’t want your caramel to burn. It will take about 7 minutes for the sugar to turn into a dark golden caramel. The smell of burnt sugar is an indication that it’s ready. If you have a candy thermometer it should read 187 degrees Celsius / 370 Fahrenheit.

Take the pan off the heat immediately and add the toasted hazelnuts to the pan. Stir briefly with a heatproof spatula to coat them with the caramel and empty everything onto the prepared baking sheet, spreading it quickly with the help of the spatula. Allow to cool completely. It will take 25-30 minutes.

Once cooled, break the praline with your hands into pieces and add them to your food processor. Grind the praline and empty it into a glass jar.

Use part of it on your puff pastry tart and you can keep the rest in the refrigerator, in a sealed glass jar, for 1 week.


  1. Beautiful! The pastry look sublime, and the filling just lightly sweet allowing the hazelnut praline to shine. ~ David

  2. Wow, there is some serious technique going on in the making of this tart! Still in awe ;o)

  3. Magda, I love the idea of crushed hazelnut praline. Thank you for the great recipe!

  4. Beautiful puff pastry!! This dessert looks like a dream come true :)


  5. I am loving your puff pastry posts! Hazelnut praline is the stuff of dreams!

  6. Wow I'm literally drooling reading through this post. Yum!

  7. Love this! This looks like the perfect extravagant thing to make with my leftover mascarpone!