How a girl and her pastries went from front-stoop bake sales to Whole Foods shelves!
Meghan Ritchie wasn’t thinking “pastry empire” when she started selling donuts off the stoop of her Brooklyn brownstone in 2007. All she cared about then was matching her love of baking with the hungry hipsters and school kids walking by on their way to the subway each morning. “We would make the dough the night before and cut, rise, and fry them the next morning,” Meghan says. “We set out cookie sheets on the stairs and made signs with sidewalk chalk. We kept our earnings in a cigar box.”
It didn’t take long for casual passersby to become addicted regulars, some of
whom began calling ahead for bigger orders. Rather than continue with donuts, however,
Meghan thought it might be clever to sell a more portable pastry. Tarts popped
to mind. “Pies have always been my thing, but you can’t walk around with a whole
Meghan says. “I had a hunch people might get into some sort of hand tart—the
nostalgia of it all.” She was right. At local food fair Smorgasburg, Meghan teamed with artisanal jam company Anarchy in a Jar to create a hand tart: buttery, flaky (“but not too flaky!”), square pastries engorged with mouth-watering, summer-fresh jam. They were a hit.
That was the summer of 2011, four years after that first summer on the stoop selling 3 dozen donuts a week. Today she makes 3,000 tarts a week, both online and to more than 20 New York cafés and markets. In spring 2012, New York-area Whole Foods began carrying Megpies. No doubt it is that blessed marriage of crust and fruit practiced to perfection by Meghan—that keeps Megpies’ fans so frenzied. But it’s something less tactical that brings them to the tarts in the first place. “I’ve never had a Kellogg’s Pop-Tart in my life,” Meghan says. “But I do believe it’s people’s memories of Pop-Tarts that attract them to us. It’s something they grew up with, and here is a grownup version with homemade jams.” Even filling-preferences tend toward the old school. “We try to cater to the seasons,” Meghan says. “We’ll do a sour cherry in the summer or blackberry in the spring; I like a Concord grape and pumpkin in the fall. But for the most part, people just want their strawberries and brown sugars.”
2½ cups all purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter, diced in to small pieces
1 tablespoon sugar
1¼ teaspoons salt
¼ cup water (the dough may need more or less water to fully come together)
1½ tablespoons corn starch
1½ tablespoons water
10 oz jam, my favorites are Anarchy in a Jar’s Strawberry Balsamic or Triple Berry jams
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 to 3 tablespoons jam
- This pastry dough is a variation on an all-butter pie crust recipe. I wanted to reduce the flakiness and create a crust for a hand held tart that would be dense enough to carry around without the risk of crumbling, but light enough to taste like heaven. The key to this is incorporating the butter into the flour thoroughly before adding any liquids. I’ve found that mixing this dough in my stand mixer with the paddle attachment works like a charm and saves me from a bit of the labor. This dough can also be made by hand or in a food processer if either is your preferred method.
- Mix the flour, sugar and salt together in the bowl of your mixer or in a large bowl. Add the diced butter to the flour mixture and stir just until the butter is coated with the flour.
- With your mixer on low speed, mix the ingredients until the butter is fully incorporated and resembles light yellow cornmeal. You don’t want to have any large chunks of butter left.
- Still on low speed, add half of the water, then add water a few tablespoons at a time until the dough comes together in a ball.
- Divide the dough in to 2 equal pieces. Pat the pieces into a flat square shape and wrap each piece. Refrigerate for 10–20 minutes while you prepare the fillings. The dough can be refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to 2 months at this point.
- These tarts can be filled with a multitude of ingredients both sweet and savory. My favorite filling by far though, is fruity delicious jam!
- Mix the cornstarch with water until thoroughly combined. Mixing these together before adding to the jam will help reduce clumping.
- In a small saucepan, combine the jam and cornstarch mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring as you bring it to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer, stirring until the jam thickens, about 1–2 minutes. Set it aside to cool.
- We make a scalloped-edge square tart, but we love to mix it up and make heart shaped tarts for Valentine's Day or circles for lollipop tarts. These tarts can be made with your favorite cookie cutters or by cutting the dough evenly in rectangles or squares with a knife. I find that mini tarts are the most fun to eat. 2x2” squares are my favorite size! 4x4” is a nice size for breakfast or tea.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Roll out your first piece of dough on a well-floured surface. You’ll want a thickness of about 1⁄8". Cut in to desired shapes. Repeat process with second piece of dough. You will want to have 2 matching pieces per tart, a top piece and a bottom piece. Arrange the pieces so you have an even number of bottoms and tops.
- Spread the jam in the center of half of your tart pieces. About 1 tablespoon of jam filling for large tarts and a ½ teaspoon for minis will be generous without overfilling.
- Brush the other half of your pieces with a little water and place on top of the filled pieces. Press the edges together gently with your fingers or a fork to seal them.
- Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked on the bottom.
- We make flavored icings to match the jams or fillings inside each tart. A glaze is super simple to make and endlessly customizable.
- Whisk ingredients together until fully combined and smooth. You can add more jam for a brighter color and more lemon juice if the icing is too thick.
If you have scrap dough left over it can be rolled out again for more tarts or you can sprinkle the pieces with cinnamon and sugar and bake for sweet cookies. They are also equally as delicious baked with a little olive oil, rosemary and salt!
Find Megpies Tarts online at megpiesnyc.
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