To end a Chinese meal on a deliciously philosophical note, here is a stunning fresh fruit tart, with a jewel-like topping of lightly glazed kiwi and banana slices arranged in the Chinese symbol of yin and yang. It is a dessert whose flavors and textures convey the yin-yang message perfectly. The citric jade-green kiwi (native to central China) and the rich blonde banana (from the south) are delightful complementary opposites. Likewise, the sturdy shortbread crust and the soft, almondy filling are dramatically different yet harmonious. This dessert tastes as good as it looks, with a fruity flavor that is thoroughly appealing after Chinese food.
Add the flour and cold cubed butter to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel knife. Process with on-off turns until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine the egg and vanilla and almond extracts. With the machine running pour the liquids through the feed tube in a steady stream, stopping the machine immediately when the dough forms a near-ball around the blade. Do not overprocess.
If you do not have a food processor, cut the butter into the flour until pea-size. Make a well in the center, add the liquids, then push the flour from the sides into the center with a fork or spatula. Work with the fingertips until the dough comes together in a homogeneous mass.
Press the dough into a flat disk. Wrap airtight in plastic and chill thoroughly before rolling out. The dough may be refrigerated for several days, or double-wrapped and frozen. Defrost in the refrigerator and roll out when very cold.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured board to form an 11–12-inch circle, evenly ⅛ inch thick. For even results, roll in one direction out from the center—not back and forth—rotating the dough ¼ turn with every few rolls of the pin. Roll quickly and deftly, so the dough remains well chilled and is not overworked. Flour the board and the top of the dough as necessary to prevent sticking; however, use a minimum of flour lest you alter the final texture of the dough.
Transfer the dough to a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan using one of two methods: Fold the dough into halves or fourths, then lift it into the center of the pan and gently unfold it. Or, reverse-roll the dough loosely over the pin, then unroll it out lightly over the top of the pan, taking care to center it. Lift the edges of the dough to help it fall gently into place in the pan, then pat lightly to shape it without pushing or stretching. Press the rippled dough into the sides of the pan to form smooth walls that are evenly ⅜ inch thick. The dough should extend evenly ⅛ inch above the sides of the pan, to allow for shrinkage when baked. You will have a few tablespoons of excess dough. Sprinkle them with sugar and bake them off as cookies when you bake the crust.
Freeze the dough, loosely covered, for 30 minutes before baking. You may freeze it longer, if you like. Seal airtight once firm, and bake directly from the freezer.
Bake about 10 minutes, until the sides look dry and no longer shiny. Remove the weights and the foil, prick the bottom of the crust in several places with the tines of a fork and bake for about 10 minutes more, until the bottom loses its shine and the crust is pale golden-blond. Do not expect it to brown.
Remove the pan to a rack. The hot crust may be filled immediately, or left at room temperature for up to 8 hours before filling.
Put the sugar, cubed butter, and almond paste in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel knife, and process until well combined and creamed. Add 1 egg to the work bowl, process to combine, then add the second egg and process until smooth. Add the rum and almond extract, then process until incorporated. Use the filling immediately.
Bake 25–30 minutes, until evenly browned, turning the tart after 15 minutes to insure even coloring. While baking, the filling will puff up like a soufflé.
Remove the tart to a rack to cool completely. As it cools, the filling will sink back down level with the crust. When entirely cool, remove the outer ring from the pan by centering the tart on your palm or a heavy can.
The tart may be left 8–12 hours at room temperature before adding the fruit topping.
Finish the tart no more than 2–3 hours before serving, lest the fruit wilt.
Melt the jam in a small heavy pot over low heat until liquid. Cover the pot to keep the jam liquid while you cut the fruit.
With a small sharp knife peel the kiwis and cut off the ends. Slice into even rounds ⅜ inch thick. Peel the banana, remove any fibrous strings, then slice on a slight diagonal into oblongs 1–1¼ inches long and ⅜ inch thick, to match the kiwis. Once the banana is cut, work quickly to apply the glaze.
Using a 1–2-inch-wide pastry brush, spread the top of the tart with a very thin, even film of warm jam, to act as a “glue” for the fruit. Return the lid to the pot to keep the jam warm and liquid. Arrange the fruit slices in a slightly overlapping ring around the outside of the tart, using the kiwi slices around the first half, then completing the circle with banana. Arrange another ring of overlapping fruit slices inside the first, then fill in the center of the tart, placing the kiwi and banana in the yin-yang pattern. Do not forget to slip a slice of kiwi into the banana half of the tart, and vice versa.
When the pattern is complete and the tart is entirely covered with fruit, brush the tops and sides of each fruit slice with a thin, even glaze of jam and also brush the uppermost edge of the tart shell.
For maximum beauty, serve the tart within several hours of completing it. You may leave it uncovered before serving, or cover it with a domed lid.
To serve, slide the tart carefully off its metal base and onto a flat serving plate. If you feel hesitant, simply center it base and all on a doily-lined plate. Present the yin-yang intact, then slice a thin wedge of the yin banana and a matching wedge of the yang kiwi for each guest.
Leftover tart remains tasty for 2 days; however, its good looks quickly fade. Store at room temperature, sealed loosely but airtight with plastic wrap.
© 1982 Barbara Tropp estate. All rights reserved.