A few years ago I tasted a concord grape for the first time and was excited to finally understand the origin of such delectable wonders as grape lollipops, Smuckers Grape Jam, and Manishevich. It also became obvious that table grapes, as they are sometimes called, are preferable for snacking. Concord grapes are funny, jelly like orbs encased in a tough-to-chew skin with at least a few seeds in each one. They are kind of yummy in a way, but not all that easy to enjoy in their original state. The juice that comes out of them when they cooked however, is a beautiful, rich, thick maroon color, has a very concentrated flavor . It is also excellent for making jam because of it’s high pectin content– which is responsible for making things gel. Making the jam for this tart is as good as eating it. The smell of the grapes’ juice fills the kitchen with an incredibly seductive aroma and it is so amazing to watch the grapes themselves turn out so much of the gorgeous liquid (okay I had fun doing this, can you tell?). The basic idea for this tart, along with the jam recipe, came from last year’s October issue of Martha Stewart Living. I decided to use a vegan crust for mine, as opposed to a classic pate brise (straightforward pie dough) as she uses. The recipe I used for the crust came from the fantastic and adorable, Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero’s cookbook, Veganonicom. You can certainly use a classic pie dough here, if you prefer.
For the Dough
this is an adapted version of Veganomicon’s Basic Single Pastry Crust. I doubled the recipe for the tart, you will have extra dough, but that’s okay, you need to make a medium-thick crust to stand up to the jam’s sweetness.
3 cups flour (I use half all purpose and half whole wheat pastry, feel free to play with those proportions)
2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup vegan margarine or shortening (I used the vegan buttery sticks from earth balance)
~ 1/2 cup ice cold water, added very slowly, you may need a little more or a little less.
4 tsp apple cider vinegar
Before you begin, put all ingredients in the fridge- make sure everything is very cold before you begin. Do not use your hands to mix the dough, the heat from the will melt the shortening.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add the shortening/margarine by the teaspoon, cutting in a about a third of the total amount at a time using a pastry cutter, two knives or a food processor- pulsing and checking to see that you have not cut your shortening chunks smaller than pea-size. Cut in all shortening until the dough is crumbly and pebbly.
Combine the vinegar with 1/2 cup of water, adding it to the dough mixture in three batches, gently mixing it with a fork until the dough just comes together when pinched. Add additional cold water if you need to.
Gather the dough into a ball and gently squeeze it so it holds together. Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour and divide the dough into two balls, flattening each one into a disk. Tightly wrap the individual disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.
Meanwhile, make the jam:
For the Jam
1 1/2 pounds Concord grapes, stems removed
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar (originally, I tried to cut down the sugar by a third of a cup, this did not work because I could not get the jam to a high enough temperature to do it’s gelling magic, this jam is sweet, you’ll just have to accept it.)
Remove the grapes from stems. Combine grapes and lemon juice in a medium nonreactive saucepan over high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until grapes release their juices, about 7 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve (you should have 1 1/2 to 2 cups juice). Return juice to saucepan over high heat, stir in granulated sugar and a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until temperature registers 220 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 8 minutes. Transfer jam to a bowl, and let cool, stirring occasionally.
note: Jam can be made a day or two ahead, you may have to reheat it slightly to loosen it a bit, before spreading it into the tart.
Rolling out the dough
On a lightly floured surface, roll out each disk of dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Transfer 1 round to a baking sheet, preferably lined with parchment, and fit the other round into a 9 1/2-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim edges flush with tart pan. Freeze both until firm, about 15 minutes.
Now, if you want to get fancy (and you have a pastry tip or a similarly shaped cutter- you could even use a bottle cap) you can cut a grape shaped cluster design into your top crust, like so:
Then freeze top crust again until firm.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread 1 cup grape jam over dough in tart pan. (Refrigerate any remaining jam for up to 2 weeks.) Slide remaining dough round on top, centering the design. Press edges to seal, and trim excess dough.
Bake tart for 15 minutes, then gently tap pan on counter to release air bubbles. Return to oven, and bake until golden brown and bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool. Unmold, and transfer to a platter. Enjoy!