I am bashfully enamored of kumquats. They are like that popular girl in high school who is small, sassy and a little bit of a rebel. You couldn't necessarily hang out with them all the time, but in small doses they knock your socks off.
I was munching (skin and all of course) these tart little darlings while contemplating what to make for a nice dinner I was cooking for friends. I had some kumquats around, so I wanted to feature them. It was a short leap to a tart: I love lemon in tarts, grapefruit, lime and orange also all make fantastic tarts, so why not the kumquat? There is something in the velvety custard composition of the tart filling that smooths out the slight brashness of citrus in a way that is divine.
I was doing all this deep thinking at a time when I was particularly into experimenting with the subtle but complex undertones that teas can bring to dishes both savory and sweet. So I munched my kumquat while standing in front of my tea cabinet, variously sniffing teas for inspiration. It wasn't long before I settled on the sweet, homey and floral taste of chamomile as the perfect compliment. All underscored by a buttery, tender shortbread crust.
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1/4 tsp almond extract
1-4 teaspoons ice water
Stir to combine flour, sugar and salt. Sprinkle with almond extract. Using pastry cutter or forks, cut in the three tablespoons of cold butter. Sprinkle with ice water one teaspoon at a time, stirring to combine until it looks like coarse wet sand.
Transfer dough to plastic wrap, form a disk, wrap and chill (for up to 30 minutes) before rolling out. If you are pressed for time, this step can be omitted, although the crust will not have as fine a texture.
Press crust into your chosen baking vessel, either individual style ramekins or a larger tart pan. For optimum crust, freeze in pan before baking.
Pre-bake crust @ 425 for 20-25 minutes in lower third of oven, or until golden brown
1/3-1/2 cup sugar (depending on whether you prefer a tart or sweet finish)
1 Tablespoon honey
1/2 cup hot water
1 packet chamomile tea leaves
9 kumquats, seeds removed, blended
1/8 tsp sea salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
Soak chamomile tea packet in the hot water. You can simply infuse the water and then drain the leaves before combining with the tart filling. This will result in a more subtle chamomile influence. Or you can cut open the chamomile packet and combine the leaves with the filling itself. As you can see in the photos above, I elected not to strain the leaves out, giving it a more rustic, rather than refined, final presentation.
Whisk the two eggs together with the sugar in a pan over medium low heat, stirring constantly. Add the kumquat puree, salt, honey, and chamomile infused water. Whisk to combine. Add the cubed butter and continue to whisk over medium heat until the sauce is thick and custardy, clinging to the whisk. It is important to whisk continuously or there is a risk that the eggs will separate out giving you little bits of scrambled egg in your tart, which no one wants.
After adding butter, cook until filling thickens, but is pourable (8-10 min). For very smooth filling, strain filling through fine mesh strainer, into prebaked crust.
Bake tart at 325 until filling is set, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool to set before serving.
Shown here garnished with mint sprigs, raspberry and blueberry.