This jam tart is simple to make, lovely to look at and even better to eat. My mother shared this traditional Belgian recipe with me, and now it’s my pleasure to pass it on. Try it once and you’ll want to make this Kermis Tarte for your special occasions and holiday baking.
My mother was a highly skilled baker, but I don’t recall her making too many Flemish recipes when I was growing up. She emigrated to Canada with her family when she was only 14. As she grew up I expect that many old recipes fell to the wayside in the face of integrating into a new culture. And, as an avid baker, she was also interested in mastering new recipes and techniques. I know from my own experience that sometimes I’m so focused on exploring new cuisines and recipes that the old favourites can languish in the recipe box until something reminds me to go back and make them again.
All that said, I have a deep appreciation for the Flemish recipes that Mom passed on to me. I don’t have many, but I’d like to learn more about Flemish Belgian cuisine. Which brings me to this recipe for Kermis Tarte.
Kermis Tarte (Gelei Tarte)
“Kermis” (pronounced care-miss — roll that r!) means “carnival” or “fair” in Flemish. And “gelei” means jam. In other words, the Flemish enjoyed this jam tarte as a treat at carnival time, at least in West Flanders where Mom was from.
Neither of my aunts are familiar with the recipe, so I don’t know if Mom came across it from Belgian friends in Canada, or if my grandmother didn’t make it often. Perhaps she purchased from the village bakery or actually at the carnival … I may never know the answers to these questions. And, since Mom was the oldest of her family, she may have had different memories than her younger siblings.
What You Need to Know about Kermis Tarte
All that aside, here’s what you need to know about this tarte: it’s easy to make, it’s lovely to look at, and it’s tasty. The pastry is a bit unusual in that it has only three ingredients, one of which is cottage cheese. I find it easy to work with — it handles nicely and I didn’t have issues with tearing.The result is light, with the flakiness that I prize.
The recipe calls for a thick glaze of apricot jam. I’m guessing that’s traditional, or perhaps just Mom’s favourite. But imagine this tarte made with a jewel-toned raspberry jam — how stunning would that be on a holiday dessert platter? Better yet, next time I may spread half the base with apricot jam and the other with raspberry, to offer variety in flavour and eye-pleasing colour all in one bake.
I made the batch pictured here for my aunt’s eightieth birthday party yesterday. Sharing Mom’s recipes with my family is a way of bringing her presence into family events. Just another reason why it’s so important to seek out and hold on to those old family recipes.
Let’s Bake Kermis Tarte
This recipe fits a 15"x10" baking tray. I like to make the tarte to fit that size, but bake it on a larger tray for ease of removal. If you have any lattice artistry skills, this is definitely a recipe where you could put them to good use. But even without artful weaving, this tarte is still pretty to look at. Preheat the oven to 350° F once you remove the rested dough from the refrigerator. Have an ungreased cookie sheet on standby, at least 15"x10" or larger.
- 1 cup creamed cottage cheese
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 pound butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup apricot jam, without chunks
Using an immersion blender or small food processor, process the cottage cheese until smooth. Set aside.
Measure the flour into a large mixing bowl. Cut the butter into pieces and toss with the flour. Using a pastry blender (or your preferred method), cut the flour and butter together until the mixture is in uniform chunks. Stir in the processed cottage cheese until it's just evenly combined. Gather the dough together and shape it into a roll on waxed paper. Wrap it well (I secure it with a couple of rubber bands) and let it sit in the fridge for an hour.
After an hour, remove the dough from the fridge and preheat the oven to 350° F.
Roll 2/3 of the dough into a rectangle that's about 16"x11". Place it on the baking sheet. Dock the base with a fork to avoid air bubbles forming while baking. Roll the remaining 1/3 of the dough out and cut strips for the lattice top. Remember to make the rolled dough long enough for the strips that will criss-cross the baking sheet from corner to corner.
Spread the tarte with the jam, leaving the 1/2-inch perimeter bare. An offset spatula like you use for icing a cake is excellent for this, but a spatula will do.
Fashion the lattice top for the tarte. Press down at the edges and trim any overhanging pieces. Fold up and roll the edges slightly to secure the lattice and make a nice edge.
Bake the Kermis Tarte for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the pastry is nicely risen and golden. Check after about 15 minutes for any air bubbles, breaking them with a toothpick or the tip of a paring knife if need be. Place the cookie sheet on a cooling rack for 10 – 15 minutes, then slide onto a cooling rack to finish cooling. If necessary, use a large offset spatula to loosen it first.
Cut into 24 pieces and serve or freeze for later.
Other Belgian Favourites
There are several other recipes on the site from my Belgian heritage. The first is the meatballs known as Frikadellen. My Mom’s Belgian-style green beans are always welcome at our family dinners. And this breakfast of fried eggs and apples is such a trip down memory lane for me — I may make it for breakfast tomorrow.