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Jun 28, 2010 12:17 PM

Do fruit tarts in France ever contain cheese?

A while back, I had a rhubarb tart in Paris that consisted of a pastry shell and a creamy filling with big chunks of rhubarb. I thought it tasted like it might have some kind of mild cheese in it, but I wasn't sure -- I guess it could've been creme fraiche or something like that. In any case, I've been trying to find a recipe for something like this without success. Does anyone have any idea what this confection might've been, or what it would be called?

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  1. In most cases tarts in French bakeries have a custard filling.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ThereseTheFoodie

      Yes, I've had that type often and this definitely wasn't that. Those tarts usually have a thin layer of rich custard, with fruit on top. This was a much deeper tart, probably about 3 inches thick, with the rhubarb mixed into the filling. It was definitely more rustic and less fancy looking. No glaze on top or anything like that.

      1. re: visciole

        Tarte alsacienne au fromage blanc.

        This is a common dessert in the Alsace, kind of like our berry danishes with cream or cottage cheese. Many different fruit varieties.

        1. re: RandyB

          Thank you, I believe that is what it was! I notice many of the recipes use creme fraiche and not cheese.

          I had this tart at a little bakery near the Cluny Museum. I wish I could recall the name of the place. They had many different varieties of this tart with different fruits and it was delicious.

    2. it could have also been fromage frais. This is just a bit younger & lighter than fromage blanc.

      I use it for making cheesecakes since Philly cream cheese is hard to come by outside of Paris. Kiri is a good substitute, but unwrapping all the little packets is a pain.
      Fortunately, a local cheese maker come to our little village market every Friday & she sells a great fromage frais made from goat's milk.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Yank

        Do you think using fromage frais would make a big difference over using creme fraiche? Because the latter will be a lot easier to find in the U.S., I think.

        1. re: visciole

          If you are a home cook, t h is is probably true. However, at the Fancy Food Show Sunday, I saw quite a bit of Fromage Frais. So if this is for a professional kitchen, I'm guessing your supplier can get it for you.

          1. re: ChefJune

            Fromage blanc is a curd cheese, with a fat content lower, sometimes much lower than creme fraiche which is a pasteurised cream that has a lactic acid culture added to it that gives it its tangy flavour and also thickens it. Fromage blanc will more or less separate, or curdle when heat is applied to it - which can, as with a tarte alsaciene, or cannot be desired. Creme fraiche won't.

            1. re: ChefJune

              I am as home a cook as can be!

              I like the idea of the fromage frais being lower fat, though, since usually these desserts are too rich to gobble down as freely as I'd prefer ;)

            2. re: visciole

              Creme fraiche definitely won't work for cheese cake. I've tried.

              Should be Ok for fruit tarts so long as you don't cook the filling.

              Most little tarts here in France use creme anglaise. In other words custard.

              1. re: Yank

                Creme fraiche is more cream than cream cheese. However a huge dollop of it would work nicely on top of the cheesecake to garnish.

                1. re: Yank

                  Yeah, I know most French tarts use crème pâtissière... but this wasn't a regular fruit tart. And it wasn't little, either. And the fruit was cooked in the filling.

                  And I'm not wanting to make cheese cake!

                2. re: visciole

                  "Do you think using fromage frais would make a big difference over using creme fraiche?"

                  Imagine substituting sour cream with cottage cheese. Different taste, different texture, won't work.

              2. A bit of information about tartelettes (individual-size tartes) in Paris.
                There are two types, roughly speaking. Tartelettes with raw fruit (fruit is added after the crust is baked) and tartelettes with cooked fruit (fruit is baked with the crust). There are also tartelettes with semicooked fruit, which is added after the crust has baked a bit, and the tartelette is finished in the oven with the fruit on top.

                Now most tartelettes (except tartes aux pommes) need some sort of padding between the fruit and the crust.
                - Tartelettes with raw fruit (strawberries, raspberries, etc.) = the padding is crème pâtissière (custard, yes, or rather pastry cream, but not crème anglaise, which is liquid custard).
                - Tartelettes with cooked fruit (rhubarb is a good example, but it may also be plum and sometimes apricot) = unless you really have a "tarte alsacienne au fromage blanc" (which is a rare thing in Paris and always labeled as such), the padding does not contain cheese but it is a "migaine", i.e. a mix of heavy cream, egg, sugar, and sometimes ground almonds. The crust + fruit will be baked first, and the migaine added a few minutes before end of baking, or if the migaine is rather thick, it will be baked for a longer time and might even be added in the early stage of baking.
                - Tartelettes with semicooked fruit are made on the same principle (crust baked first), but the crust will be baked a bit longer and the fruit (often apricots) is added a few minutes before the end of baking, with a padding which is generally an almond cream (almond, cream, egg, sugar, vanilla, with a larger proportion of almond than the classic migaine). Christian Constant's tartelette amandine aux abricots was (or perhaps is, I do not know if he still does that) a perfect example of this very delicate type of Parisian tartelette. The fruit was slightly softened but not mushy, and the almond cream was moist and delicious.

                Anyway the main thing to remember is that with raw fruit you'll have crème pâtissière (no cheese) and that with cooked fruit you'll have a migaine or crème d'amandes filling (no cheese either).

                4 Replies
                1. re: Ptipois

                  So then you think the thing I had was a migaine?

                  The shop specialized in whatever this confection was. They had an array of around 12 kinds (with different fruits) in the window, big, thick cake-like things, the custardy-filling studded with fruit, which they sold by the generous slice. These things were definitely rustic, but beautiful-rustic! They did also have other stuff (I think) but the window attracted me, I said Bonjour and requested the rhubarbe, I ate it, and I can't for the life of me remember what it was called. I would not swear it had cheese, but there was definitely a tangy flavor in there which I don't generally associate with French fruit desserts.

                  1. re: Ptipois

                    So good to see you posting on this site. I've missed you over on the other site.

                    As always you are a fount (fountain?) of knowledge. At least I was right about the cheese, I think. Is fromage fraise ever used as a filler in fruit tarts?

                    I cheated tonight & just baked halved apricots with a sprinkling of honey, cinnamon, ginger & nutmeg. Served them with some good quality ice cream. Tasted pretty good, but not up to professional standards.

                    I do have to guard my amateur status don't I ?

                    Again, nice to see you posting.

                    1. re: Ptipois

                      Pti, Christian Constant the chocolatier on rue d'Assas (not the pop star on rue Saint Dominique) still does that wonderful perfection of an abricot and almond tartelette. Along with the best icecream I know. Let's go now!

                      1. re: souphie

                        @Souphie: I am glad to hear Constant (yes, of course I meant that one) still does that wonderful little apricot tart. Let's go, er, ASAP.

                        @Yank: as I wrote, fromage blanc fillings are a very Alsatian thing and quite rare in Paris. You will find more of them in Alsace. Tarte 'alsacienne' in Paris will be made with a simple migaine (no almonds, just cream-egg-sugar) ; other tartelettes of a more Parisian style will have a crème d'amandes (almonds added to the basic migaine). But no fromage blanc.

                        Eric Kayser (who like many star pâtissiers is from Alsace) sells huge tartes by the slice. They are nice to look at but nothing to write home about, though not bad. They are filled with fruit and a large amount of almondy migaine, but I do not even think he uses fromage blanc in that. Perhaps in the red fruit tarte which looks very white. He wrote a book about his tartes and the answer might well be in it.