“Labneh” Tart

by ck

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The title of this post is somewhat deceiving, as I didn’t actually buy any labneh to use in this wonderful tart (stay with me!) Labneh isn’t too difficult to find in Cambridge, but it isn’t something you can pick up at your neighborhood grocer, either, so a couple of weeks ago when I found myself staring at a recipe in Saveur with a steady thrumming in my chest (my ‘gotta-make-it-now’ symptom), I decided to make do with what I had. Granted, I live walking distance from Cambridge’s Formaggio Kitchen on Huron Ave, so ‘what I had’ happened to be the thick, creamy yogurt from Sophia’s Greek Pantry. I’d bought it a few days prior in a moment of weakness (I usually enter Formaggio with a strict ‘look but don’t touch’ mantra) and I’d been looking for an elegant way to eat it that didn’t involve my fingers.

I didn’t know much about labneh, but my mom’s been buying it for a while now– she serves it at dinner parties with a swirl of olive oil and a generous shake of za’atar (she has no idea how hip she is, what with the recent Jerusalem craze.) I had an notion that labneh should sit somewhere between greek yogurt and goat cheese in terms of consistency, so the first challenge I faced was thickening up the already dense yogurt. After googling around I came across several posts that recommended straining the yogurt in a cheesecloth. No cheesecloth to be found in the kitchen of three friends in their twenties, so I grabbed a clean dishtowel (the thinnest I could find) and set it over a a sieve, then placed that over a large bowl, made a cup of tea, read my book (this one) and took a nap. A few hours later I checked on the yogurt and it had yielded around 1/4 c. of liquid. Not enough, but I decided to hurry the process by gathering the cloth and squeezing until drops of milky liquid gathered and dropped steadily into the bowl.

This is all to say that labneh is easy to fabricate, and also that the tart is not picky or finicky when it comes to thickness of yogurt.  If you have regular greek yogurt, this recipe recommends straining it like I did, but for a few days until it resembles “soft goat cheese.” My ‘labneh’ definitely didn’t get to goat cheese consistency, and if I had tried to roll it into balls (as the BonApp recipe requires), it would’ve wound up on the floor. My yogurt had the texture of thick sour cream when I’d finished with it, and I found that it worked just fine.

Satisfied with my slightly-thicker yogurt, I began to make the tart.

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Gather your ingredients for the crust: 3/4 c. white-whole wheat or AP flour (didn’t test with whole wheat), 1/4 c. almond meal, 1/4 c. sugar, 1/4 tsp. salt, 6 tbsp butter, 3/4 tsp vanilla. (NB the original recipe calls for 1 c. AP flour, so no stress if you don’t have almond meal on hand.)
For the filling: 1 lb. labneh (or full-fat greek yogurt), 1/4 c. sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1/8 tsp. salt, 3 eggs

Prepare labneh, whatever that means to you: strain, squeeze, or purchase. As I said before, I found this recipe to be fairly forgiving, so it doesn’t have to be exceedingly thick.

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine flours, sugar, and salt in medium bowl. Add butter and vanilla, mix until dough forms. (I reduced the amount of butter from 8 tbsp to 6 tbsp, and I even think it could even be reduced further to 5 tbsp. It was still very buttery!) Plonk the dough down into a pan (I used my 8 inch springform), spread it out using a spatula, and prick it all over with a fork. Line it with parchment paper and fill with dried beans (I have a jar of beans in my cabinet that I use for this purpose) and bake 15-17 min. Remove weights carefully (I didn’t have a problem with the dough sticking to the parchment paper, but if you do, scrape it off and push it back into the pan– it’ll be covered by the labneh anyway) and bake until brown, an additional 7-8 min. Let cool. I usually pop it in the fridge/freezer to accelerate the process.

As crust cools, lower oven to 300F. Mix labneh, sugar, vanilla, salt, and eggs, pour filling into cooled crust. Bake until set, about 20 min. Let cool before serving (hot yogurt is a very strange thing, unless you’re making this, which I haven’t yet been bold enough to try.)

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