This Savory Asparagus Tart Is a Spring Showstopper

Melty cheese, bright asparagus, and crispy, buttery pastry — what more could you want?

Fruit tarts are a wonderful way to highlight the best fruit the spring season has to offer, but have you ever tried making one savory? This simple-yet-elegant asparagus tart is as easy as it gets, all thanks to one store-bought shortcut. Let professional baker Liz Shim show you how to master savory spring tarts.

Step 1: Prep the Puff Pastry

The base of this tart starts with a secret store-bought weapon: frozen puff pastry. However, to ensure your pastry bakes up perfectly, it's important to understand what makes it rise in the oven.

Puff pastry is made through a lamination process of folding sheets of butter and dough over and over again to create thin, flaky layers, similar to a croissant or pie crust. As it bakes, steam gets trapped between the layers which causes the dough to puff up into a delicious, flaky, and impressive pastry. It's very tricky and time-consuming to make at home, so using the frozen pre-made pastry is super convenient and tastes just as great.

Start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). A high temperature and hot oven are important for puff pastry to be able to create steam and rise.

Next, you'll want to defrost the frozen puff pastry until it's pliable and easy to unfold, but not so long that the butter in between the layers begins to melt and the dough becomes sticky. This typically takes about 40 minutes on the counter or, for a quick defrost, microwave it in 30-second increments until softened but still slightly cold to the touch. If you defrost it too much and it's hard to handle, simply chill it in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes till it's firm again.

Once the puff pastry is ready, place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat to ensure an easy release. Gently unfold the puff pastry sheet, making sure it doesn't crack at the seams — if it does, use your fingers to patch it back together. Brush off any excess flour, and lightly roll it out with a rolling pin if the seams are not so flat.

Liz has a great trick to ensure the toppings stay on the tart once baked: Create a pastry "border" or crust. Use a knife to score lines along the edges of puff pastry about one inch out from the edge of the pastry, taking care not to cut all the way through. Then, use a fork or that same knife to lightly prick all over the puff pastry except the border. This process, called "docking," makes it so that some steam can release and the center of the tart won't balloon and puff up too much as it bakes. If it does puff a little that's fine, it will settle back down when you take it out of the oven.

The final step is optional, but it makes your tart look extra professional: Brush the border with an egg wash or milk for added shine.

Finally, you're ready to par-bake which means baking the pastry part of the way without toppings. This will keep the bottom crispy and ensure air can get in between all those thin layers. If you don't do this step, the bottom may be doughy, soft, or undercooked. Bake for about 10 minutes, using that time to prepare your toppings and fillings.

Step 2: Pick Your Toppings

The beauty of this spring tart is that it's a blank canvas with endless possibilities, so feel free to customize yours with whatever ingredients you like or whatever produce is in peak season.

Liz's favorite recipe opts for seasonal asparagus, nutty Fontina cheese, and some fresh thyme. Liz likes to use thinner asparagus because they match the cook time for the puff pastry better, but if you can only find thicker asparagus, simply cut them in half lengthwise. Always remember to trim about an inch or two off the bottom of each asparagus to remove the hard, woody ends. Finally, for an even more impressive finish, alternate the direction of the asparagus tips when arranging them on the pastry.

If you don't have or care for asparagus, you can also substitute in other spring produce, but stick with smaller, more delicate vegetables like peas, spring onions, or radishes. Heartier vegetables like potatoes or carrots may not be fully cooked in the same time as the puff pastry.

As for the cheese, if you can't find or don't like Fontina, use Gruyere cheese for the closest swap. Or, if you prefer a milder cheese, you can also use mozzarella, Cheddar, or ricotta. Don't skip the thin layer of punchy Dijon mustard — it cuts through all the rich cheese and buttery pastry. Fresh thyme leaves seal the deal, but feel free to swap in dried, too.

Step 3: Garnish and Serve

Once the tart is baked, Liz adds a few garnishes that take this tart from good to great. The final star ingredient of this savory tart is Italian prosciutto. Liz points out that prosciutto always tastes saltier and gets oilier and dry when baked, so it's best to add the prosciutto on top after the tart bakes instead of baking it with the other ingredients.

The finishing touch for flavor and looks is a drizzle of balsamic glaze or reduction, or even honey if that's what you have on hand. This adds a bit of sweetness and counters out the saltiness of the cheese and prosciutto, making for a perfectly balanced tart.

This savory tart is one of the easiest ways to impress and showcase spring's best produce. Your family won't believe this came out of your kitchen, and only you will know how easy it was to make.


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