I try really hard to look at the end of daylight savings as the beginning of those long, glorious, sunny summer days. When you’re losing an hour of precious sleep, it’s hard to remember the bright side. I decided that this year I would stop worrying about the sleep aspect, and celebrate the end of daylight savings with the most appropriate dish I could think of: a Tarte Soleil. It’s made of puff pastry, cut and shaped to look like the most beautiful sunburst, with endless possibilities for fillings – just the thing to help cheer up tired people like us.
Puff pastry works well with all sorts of flavors. I filled mine with creamy, slightly tangy and salty spinach and artichoke dip. I was a little worried that the spinach and artichoke dip would run out of the pastry in the oven and make a huge mess, but it held up quite well. I adapted a recipe from Once Upon a Chef, which uses a Mornay sauce in place of cream cheese/mayo. A Mornay sauce is essentially just a white sauce with shredded cheese, and also a term that I was unaware of until I made my spinach and artichoke dip. You learn something new every day (even a day that’s missing an hour).
A Tarte Soleil is a wonderful thing to know how to make. I’ll be the first to admit that while puff pastry with spinach and artichoke dip is undeniably delicious, it’s not exactly boundary-pushing. But formed into an intricately twisty sun-shape, and baked to perfect golden crispiness, the combination is not only classic, it becomes irresistible.
I made my puff pastry from scratch. I think people assume puff pastry is difficult to make, because you do have to be a little careful about the temperature of the dough. I find that it’s actually a fairly quick and easy process, if you focus on what you’re doing. I would encourage everyone to try making their own at some point, but store-bought crust will work just as well for this recipe. I actually meant to buy mine this time (I’ve read Pepperidge Farm makes a great version), forgot to get it, and then was too lazy to run to the store when it was time to get cooking. So I just made it instead. I’m nothing if not a problem solver. The fact that I also create my own problems may have something to do with that.
The key to a good Tarte Soleil is cutting the sections of filled pastry uniformly, and then twisting them evenly. This is always a challenge for me, because I’m not as meticulous as I might choose to be. It’s important to twist each section of pastry about three times, and make sure the twists are evenly spaced along the section. My other advice would be to stop twisting and pop the whole thing in the freezer for a few minutes if you find your puff pastry is getting too soft and warm to work with. This solves a lot of frustration when trying to get those perfect twists.
My Spinach and Artichoke Tarte Soleil is exactly what I’d like to snack on at a party, but your taste could be drastically different from mine. Luckily, the filling possibilities for Tarte Soleil are endless. You could do a different savory option, like this feta tapenade from Smitten Kitchen, or even choose a sweet filling – I’ve seen loads of versions stuffed with Nutella. Whatever direction you go, it’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Even if the crowd is mostly you and your family sitting in your kitchen, eating it straight from the oven. But then, that’s the best sort of crowd, isn’t it?
Spinach and Artichoke Tarte Soleil
Spinach and Artichoke Dip recipe is adapted from Once Upon a Chef's Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip. I changed it to make it gluten-free.
Puff Pastry is a basic puff pastry from All Recipes - I used a different method for making it.
- 5 cups bread flour
- 2 1/2 tsps salt
- 2 cups very cold water
- 2 cups cold unsalted butter (do not soften)
Spinach and Artichoke Dip Filling
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 4 Tbsps butter, divided use
- 1/2 tsp corn starch
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 5 oz frozen spinch
- 9 oz frozen artichoke hearts, chopped
- 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- flour for rolling
- 1 egg
Make puff pastry, if you are doing it from scratch. Stir together flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut butter into small pieces and add to the bowl. Pour in water gradually, while stirring the mixture - add just enough water to get everything combined into a rough dough. You don't want the butter creamed into the flour, you want it to stay in chunks - this is what causes the dough to form those beautiful, flaky layers in the oven.
2. Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface. Form it into a rectangle, and gently roll out until it's about a half inch thick. Fold the bottom third up into the middle, and fold the top third down on top of that. Turn it 90 degrees, add more flour to prevent sticking, and roll it out again. Repeat this process three more times, adding flour as needed. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the filling. You can also freeze it for about 10 minutes before using, if your filling is already made.
Note: While making this dough, you need to work quickly, with very cold water and butter, to prevent the butter from melting into the dough.
3. Make the spinach and artichoke dip. Start with the Mornay sauce. Stir together butter and sour cream in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir together cream and corn starch in a small bowl and add to the pan. Let the sauce come to a boil, stirring constantly. When it reaches a boil, turn off the heat and gradually stir in the shredded cheese, until sauce is smooth. It should be fairly thick.
4. In a skillet, cook onion over medium heat until it starts to become translucent. Add spinach, garlic, artichokes, thyme, and salt. Let cook for roughly five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the artichokes start to soften. Pour cheese sauce over the vegetables and stir until well combined.
5. Prepare your Tarte Soleil. Take half of your puff pastry (leave the other half in the fridge) and roll out into a 12 inch round on a floured surface. Take a round plate slightly smaller in diameter than your baking tray (I used a pizza tray) and place it upside down on the dough. Trace around it with a knife to form a perfect circle for the base of your Tarte. Place the circle on your baking tray (lined with parchment paper).
6. Top with a generous layer of filling, leaving about a half inch bare around the outer edge of the circle. You may have some extra filling - don't feel like you need to use all of it, you just want a nice thick, even layer - no gobs. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you work with the rest of the puff pastry.
6. Roll the second half of your pastry dough into a 12 inch round and cut a perfect circle as you did with the first layer. Place this layer on top of the first layer with the filling, so that the filling is sandwiched between the two layers. Place a small bowl or glass in the center of the the dough. This will mark the center of your Tarte, the section that doesn't get cut and twisted.
7. Cut away from the glass with a knife, slicing the dough into quarter sections. Cut each quarter section in half, and each of those sections in half again, until you have 16 total sections. You can choose to go a step further, cutting each section in half one more time, to end with 32 total sections coming from the center circle. It mostly depends on how many servings you want to make/how much work you want to do. Be careful not to cut through the parchment paper.
8. Twist each section 3-4 times, twisting all of the sections in the same direction. Don't just hold the end of a section and twist, because the dough won't automatically twist the way you want it to. The best way to do this is to try to twist each section once near the center circle, once in the middle of the section, and once closer to the end, so they're evenly spaced.
9. When all of the sections are twisted, you should have a beautiful sunburst. Beat egg in a small bowl and brush over the pastry. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool before moving to a serving tray, to prevent Tarte from tearing.