Thursday, April 25, 2013

Mango Tart: Smashing At The End

Mangoes are my favorite fruit.  I love how they taste, their texture, that they can be eaten by themselves or used in both savory and sweet dishes - everything about them, which is why I make this mango mousse cake so often.  This time I decided to try something new and make a mango dessert that wasn't the mousse cake.  I had already decided to retry the green tea mille crepes cake from the Zen Can Cook website.  When I was on the website, I saw that he's got a recipe for a mango tart.  It was fate!

But of course I can't leave well enough alone, so I changed some things before I even tried the recipe for the first time.  You'd think that I would have learned after the mille crepes cake debacle, but no.  This time I decided that instead of using store-bought puff pastry, I'd make a tart shell and put the filling into that instead.  I used the tart shell from the dark chocolate and cherry tart and one and half bags of frozen mango chunks from Trader Joe's instead of four to five ripe mangoes.

Zen's original recipe produces a flat tart with a thin layer of mango puree topped with lots of fresh mango slices that are baked until they are cooked through.  This isn't a good time of year to get fresh mangoes on the East Coast, so I made a thick tart with a lot of mango puree topped with a small amount of fresh mango that was baked until the mango puree became more solid.  Sometimes it just isn't possible to get the right quantities of the ingredients you need to make a recipe.  There's no shame in improvising.  I figured if the whole thing didn't work, I'd just eat the mango filling with a spoon.

In the end, things worked out well enough that I have a couple of ideas for the next time I try the "thick variation" of this recipe.  Nobody at the potluck got to see the result because I was cut off when I driving on the freeway on my way to the potluck.  Fortunately I had put the mango tart in my cake carrier so when I braked suddenly, the mango tart smashed into the side of the carrier instead of into the back of the drivers seat.  I told the potluck that it was an Impressionist version of a mango tart.  We ate it with a spoon and it tasted wonderful, very mango-y.

If you don't like mango, it's not worth your time to make this since the filling is basically pure mango with a few extra ingredients.

Tips: there's nothing wrong with the original version of this recipe if you can get enough ripe mangoes.  The mango season is supposedly January through September but getting nice, ripe mangoes varies by geography.  Florida grows mangoes but they aren't on the market until May or June, so the only ones I could find were imported from Mexico.  They were ripe but they were also very bruised, which doesn't display well in a fan pattern like Zen suggests.

To find a ripe mango, you want to do the "squeeze test".  A ripe mango is a little bit soft, with a little bit of give.  If you squeeze a mango and it's very firm, it's not ripe.  You're looking for a sensation that similar to what you get if you do the "squeeze test" on an avocado.

Peeling and slicing a mango isn't as difficult as you'd think if you know the set-up (or anatomy) of a mango.  The skin is firm and quite thick and the seed is long and narrow, not round like an avocado seed.  There are lots of websites that show you how to peel and cut a mango.  I learned what is apparently the Thai way of doing it.  I'm not Thai and neither is my Italian mother, who showed me, so I don't know why we do it that way in our family.  It does work like a charm.

IMHO, the original recipe doesn't give very good instructions for how to cut the mangoes.  It's not clear what type of cuts you're trying to make if you've never cut up a mango before.  What the instructions want you to do it to cut off the top and bottom of the mango first.  There will be a small brown stem that's still attached at the top (see it in the pictures here), which is the top of the mango and which marks where the seed it.  Cut that off and the matching bottom part.  You will be able to stand the mango up on the flat bottom.  Next, take a sharp paring knife and run it under the skin of the mango, between the skin and the flesh.  You can make a vertical cut in the skin once it's loosened and it will peel right off.  Then, take the knife and align it so that you can cut down through the mango without hitting the seed.  You are trying to slice off the left or right side of the mango while avoiding cutting the seed.  You will get what is called the cheek of the mango.  You'll end up with two cheeks, which you should slice into thin strips to make a fan pattern on the top of the tart.  Take the seed and the flesh that's left, and chop the flesh off while avoiding getting bit of seed in it.  This doesn't need to be pretty since this part of the flesh will be boiled down and pureed.

Mangoes will cook in the oven but they do need to be baked at a relatively high temperature for 30-40 minutes.  The flesh has a lot of moisture and can also be more fibrous and tough than many other fruits.

Mangoes are very sweet when they are ripe so I don't add much sugar to them when you make the puree.

The next time I try making this tart I'm going to add some cornstarch to the mango puree to thicken it up (and maybe some eggs yolks as well).  Unfortunately I never got the chance to slice the tart before it smashed so I don't know exactly how solid the filling got.

Several people mentioned that they liked the fact that this dessert isn't too sweet.  One potluck person said that it was "Asian sweet" instead of "American sweet".

I used the four tablespoons of melted butter like the recipe suggested but I didn't really notice any effect since I didn't use much fresh mango on top.  If you make a version that's similar to the original one with lots of fresh mango, you will probably need some melted butter when you put the tart in the oven.

The sugar and water combination needs to boil for a while to make a syrup.  You can add the lime juice while it's boiling instead of waiting until the end.  The syrup will become quite thick after boiling about 10 minutes or so.  It's a nice flavor match to the mangoes so I wouldn't skip this part of the recipe.

Mango Tart with Lime
Original recipe from Zen Can Cook

  • One 8-inch round of high-quality puff pastry
  • 4 to 5 ripe mangoes (preferably Ataulfo, Champagne, or Manila)
  • 4 tablespoons (unsalted) butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 lime
My modifications:
  • 2 bags of Trader Joe's mango chunks
  • 1 ripe mango


Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut the ends of the mangoes and peel them by running a small sharp knife underneath the skin. Slice each half along the pit and reserve on a plate. Cut the remaining flesh around the pit and chop roughly.

Place the chopped mango in a small saucepan with 2 or 3 tablespoons of water and a sprinkle of sugar and cook over medium heat until very soft and most of the liquid has evaporated. Blend in a food processor to make a smooth puree. Cool.

Place the round of puff pastry on a baking tray lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Prick with a fork all over except for a 1/4-inch border. Spread out a thin layer of the cooled mango compote on top of the pastry but keep the 1/4-inch border. Slice the mango halves and overlap them in a fan pattern on top of the mango compote leaving the border intact. Brush the mango slices with the melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Place the tray in the hot oven and bake for 35 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed around the edges, golden brown and caramelized.

Meanwhile place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil to make a syrup. Squeeze half the lime in the sugar syrup. Brush the hot lime syrup over the mango tart and grate some lime zest all over it using a microplane grater. Serve warm or at room temperature.

My modifications: prepare tart shell.  While shell is blind baking, prepare mangoes.  Slice ripe mango as described above.  

Defrost 1 1/2 bags of mango chunks in the microwave, and puree in a food processor.  Sift 1/2 cup cornstarch into the mango puree and mix well.  Heat mango puree in a pot on the stove until very hot (possibly boiling), stirring or whisking the entire time.  This should take about 3-5 minutes.  The mango puree will thicken.  Heat until the puree has reached the desired thickness.  Pour thickened puree into the blind baked tart shell.

Arrange the mango slices in a pattern.  Brush with melted butter if a lot of fresh mango is used.  Bake for 35 minutes, and continue with the directions about the lime syrup.

Rolling out the dough for the tart.  It's easier to use parchment paper to cover the board.

Fitting the dough into the tart pan.

Ready for blind baking.
I planned to use two ripe mangoes for the top but the one on the right was bruised.

Slice off the top and bottom.

I peel mangoes downwards in vertical strips like using a vegetable peeler.

Peeled mangoes: the right one is too bruised to use as decoration on the top of the tart.

Sliced mango with the juiced and zested lime.

Tart shell filled with mango puree.

Decorated with mango slices.

Baked and with the syrup on top.  It only lasted for an hour like this before it got smashed.

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