The Bell Kitchen

Basil and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Tarte Soleil

Picture of a sun-shaped pastry

A few weeks ago, I came across an article that told of an upcoming and rare “Christmas Star”, an event when Jupiter and Saturn will appear to collide creating a beaming spectre that hasn’t been seen in nearly 800 years. Not since the Middle Ages have we been so close to what is also known as the “Star of Bethlehem”, which guided the Magi to Jerusalem. Whether you subscribe to the New Testament and Gospel of Matthew or believe the narrative to be pious fiction, there is an overarching theme to consider. What is noteworthy is humankind’s reliance on the use of stars as guiding lights; in celestial navigation, discovery, and personal reflection. Since antiquity, we have turned to the Heavens to provide not only direction but pinned our hopes on them — cosmic, and beyond our human capabilities. They are symbols of hope we grasp in the present to place our desires and needs for the future.

It wasn’t very too long ago that I also found my need for direction, a guiding voice in an unprecedented year of oneness, anxiety, uncertainty, and worry. It is comprehensible to astray from our personal journey when we have placed a significant amount of concern outside of ourselves; family, friends, loved ones, and strangers. The question is how, when we realize we have fallen off life’s tightrope, do we regain that footing again. I had long forgotten about this blog, or cooking, or showed a meaningful interest in my hobbies this year (and perhaps more) but have located within myself a sense of conviction that dealing with the troubles of the world can only be met if we reacquaint with our own principles. It is a rediscovery of our overall self-identity in a space when we have no immediate people beside us to remind us of who we are. It takes strength and perhaps something beyond ourselves; a hope, or a sort of navigating abstract star.

One step I was encouraged to resume during the year was to just start anytime, anywhere, or anyhow to write again. With food, or without, it was a push to get me back to what I truly love and what I believe will be in my personal journey storyline – writing. I have yet a ways to go but in the kitchen it provides me time to think and reflect on my path – especially when baking. So kneading this dough, I thought that maybe this was the entry to come back and put me back on the path. I found symbolism in this recipe, that is quite apparent, but also wanted to share this with you. The red and green pesto colors reminded me of Christmas and of celebrating, sharing with family and friends.

When you find yourself in a bit of gloom it often helps to do something that fills you with a sense of achievement. For me, it was to unplug and try to bake (which I try to improve) and provide a quiet time to learn and reflect. This holiday year, so different than others, return to what brings you joy and puts you on your path as I am trying to do. Find joy in whatever you do and have fun – and eat something amazingly tasty that you made. Although “soleil” in French is “sun”, it seemed more like a Christmas star but both provide direction and cue which I think you should try. Enjoy and hope to see you back here again soon – happy to be here with you again, too.

If you are searching for this and more holiday inspiration ideas this season, be sure to check out more recipes here.

Tarte Soleil Recipe

Served warm with a side of herb garden tomato sauce and sprinkle of Parmesean

What you’ll need

1 package dry yeast – appx 8 grams or 1 ounce

1/4 cup water, warmed

3/4 cup whole milk, warmed

1 large egg, room temperature

1/4 cup butter, soft

2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

3 1/2 cup baking flour, or AP

1 cup green basil pesto, 1/2 cup sun-dried tomato pesto

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup melted butter

Herb tomato sauce (optional)

Directions

In a small bowl, combine dry yeast and warm water. Add a pinch of sugar and pinch of flour to yeast mix, set aside for 10 mins. In a stand-alone mixer, combine yeast, 2 cups flour, butter, egg, salt, sugar, and milk on medium using a dough hook. If using a bowl, use a wooden spoon or similar. Dough will be sticky. Add remaining 1 1/2 cup flour, blend until smooth – appx 8 min

On a floured surface, roll dough out and begin to moderately knead the dough, bringing in extra dashes of flour if necessary. It will stick at first but continue until smooth and soft – about 8 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise in warm space for 1 hour. (I cover with electric blanket far from drafts) Dough should double in size.

Roll dough onto surface, punching down lightly and roll. Divide dough into 4 equal parts. Roll first dough ball out until 12 inches round, similar to a pizza. Place on a greased pizza or cookie sheet and cover with green basil and cheese, coming 1/2 inch to the edge. Roll second dough as above and place on top. Spread red pesto as above with cheese. Continue with 3rd dough ball with green pesto and cheese before finally covering with 4th layer.

Handy pastry mat for consistency

Place a marker (e.g. upside-down water glass) in center appx 2 1/2 inches – do not press down. With a sharp knife, cut 16 evenly spaced cuts, rotating your pizza or cookie sheet as you go. To form the signature star, take 2 adjacent strips, pull up and rotate outwards twice, tuck edges in together and form on pan. Correct shape if necessary. Repeat around pan. Cover with clean and dry kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes under a warm space. Dough should double again.

Cut even spaces apart
Delicately pull dough up and rotate twice away from each other, tuck in
Correct shape and tuck in as needed
Ready to be covered for second rise

Preheat oven to 375 and center your rack while you wait. Place tarte inside and bake until golden brown, appx 18-22 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes on a cooling rack, brush brown golden spots with melted butter and add any extra remaining cheese as garnish. Serve warm with side of warmed herb tomato sauce for dipping.