Beer Tart

A regional French pastry, Beer Tart (Tarte à la bière) is a recipe made with beer and brown sugar. A home-style dessert from the North of France.

I was invited to a lovely lunch at the 3-star restaurant Alléno Paris (Pavillion Ledoyen), hosted by Mauviel, a French company that makes copper cookware in Normandy, that one day, I’m hoping to visit. Although mispronouncing the name when I was introduced to the owner probably didn’t help my chances!

Nevertheless, I did my best in the charm department. (Foreigners are often given a pass with goofs in French, since even the French know how intricate their language is.) I did excel, however, in making my way through the meal – cleaning everything from my plate. My reward came at the end of the meal with post-modern Pear, Vanilla and tonka bean cake, then a copious plate of mignardises (lots of little cakes and candies) and then…whew!…out came a burnished amber tart, sliced precisely into six perfect wedges.

Beer Tart (excellent!)

A photo posted by David Lebovitz (@davidlebovitz) on

After I ate more than my share of them – no one at the table was tackling the sweets with the same fervor as I was…but the only problem with having to wear a suit just once or twice a year is that trying to pull the waistband closed is an uncomfortable indicator of how much you’ve been eating in the interim. I asked what the tart was, because it had a flavor that I couldn’t quite pinpoint. They told me it was tarte à la bière.

After I made it home and changed my clothes (and now have a permanent scar from when my waistband viciously flew open when I released the top clasp to my trousers), I did some scouting around and learned that the tart hails from the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, once under Flemish rule, and a region where both beer and brown sugar are popular. I noticed every recipe I came across was nearly identical, with some variations, and got to work on one to share, starting off by pressing homemade pâte sucrée pastry dough into a tart mold to bake.

It’s probably time here to mention that this is a dessert that would typically be made by a home cook or small, local restaurant. French cooks don’t try to compete with the local pâtisserie and are happy with “homemade” desserts, that may be a little off-kilter, or whatever. They don’t take points off for things like a crack in the crust or filling running over the side.

When I served this one to French friends, although I didn’t think it looked so great (certainly not as nice as the one at the three-star restaurant), they loved it because they said it looked, and tasted, “homemade.” So if you want to live like a (French) local, baking this tart fits the bill.

I’ve got quite a collection of brown sugars, and although I think sucre vergeoise (brown beet sugar) is the traditional sugar that’s used, if you have light brown American sugar, or one similar to those shown, you can use that. No need to torture yourself over what is the “right” kind of sugar; any sugar that’s light amber in color will work.

I prefer to make my own crust. But many of French home cooks use pre-made tart doughs, which are widely available in French supermarkets. Pizza dough and puff pastry are also both readily available, and I even saw tart dough that is gluten- and dairy-free when I went to the supermarché, to help me figure out how to present a tart that would be a little more durable than flaky, yet delicate tart I made using pâte sucrée, which was a challenge to remove neatly from the tart mold.

Easy access to pre-made tart doughs mean that one can have a tart or quiche ready for dinner by just unrolling dough, adding a filling, and baking it. My tart doughs are always made with pure butter and meant to be flaky, but some of the pre-made tart doughs are made margarine, which is a French invention, btw, so you need to read the labels. And that’s what I did, when, for the second time in my life, I bought pre-made tart dough to try it out, because I’m so open-minded. Well, sometimes.

My first and second Beer Tarts were a hit. Still, I was intrigued by the creamy, custardy tarte à la bière that I had at Alléno Paris and wrote to the restaurant, who supplied me with their recipe…which made ten tarts. As open-minded as you and I are, I thought that might be too much for both of us, plus their filling was a seductive combination of heavy cream, egg yolks, and a beer reduction. It was delicious at the restaurant, for sure – with those ingredients, how could it not be? – but it seemed a little over-the-top* for home cooks, so decided to soldier on, hewing close to tradition.

Another astuce (cooking tip) is that French home cook use a solid moule à tarte, not false-bottom tart pans, that can be lined with parchment paper. (Another bonus to the pre-made dough: They come with their own sheet of parchment paper.) Anticipating the backlash if I suggested a piece of bakeware that you couldn’t get your hands on – rightfully – or if I asked you to go out and buy pre-made tart dough, I made my own pâte brisée, a studier dough that’s generally reserved for savory tarts.

Fortunately the third time was a charm and my persistence paid off, without resorting to “le rouleau” (the roll), which worked well in a traditional removable bottom tart ring. Just like I’m making a vow to go shopping for a new pair of trousers before the next swanky meal that I’m invited to, so I don’t have to sit through a two-and-a-half hour meal without exhaling. I was glad that my vow to get the tart right paid off as well.

Beer Tart
Print Recipe
8 servings
This tart dough recipe is adapted from my book, My Paris Kitchen (page 155), which I use for quiche. For this tart I used a removable-bottom tart pan, which I removed while it was still warm. The best strategy for releasing the tart from the pan is to let the tart cool for a few minutes after you remove it from the oven, then set the tart on a coffee can or similar object, and coax the outer ring off. If it's sticking in some places, gently pry it loose with a paring knife. Transfer the tart back to the cooling rack (a wide metal spatula or pancake turner might help with moving the tart around), and let cool, then run a bread knife between the dough and the bottom of the tart pan to slide it off. Traditional recipes for tarte à la bière call for bière ambrée (amber beer), which according to this article, is called pale ale in some countries. I tried one with Guinness stout and it worked well.
Tart dough
1 cup, plus 5 tablespoons (195g) flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (4oz, 115g) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1 large egg
Beer tart filling
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons packed (230g) light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup (250ml) amber beer (or stout)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (30g) butter, salted or unsalted, cubed
For the tart dough
1. Mix the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a food processor, or by hand in a medium-sized bowl) until combined. Add the butter and mix on medium-low speed until the butter is in small pieces, about the size of small peas. Add the egg and continue to mix the dough until it comes together in an almost-smooth mass.
2. Remove the dough from the mixer bowl and shape it into a disk with your hands. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or put in a cool place.
3. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface until it's a 13-inches (33cm) circle. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch (23cm) tart pan with a removable bottom and fit the dough into the pan, including into the corners, trying your best not to stretch the dough out. Trim any excess dough by rolling the rolling pin over the top of the tart and reserve some of the scraps of dough for patching the tart later. Prick the dough about five times with a fork and chill the dough in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Line the frozen tart dough in the mold with foil. Fill the foil with dried beans or pie weights and bake until the sides are light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove the beans and foil and bake for a few more minutes, about 5-7, until the bottom is very light brown. (If it's puffed up, gently press it down with a spatula, being careful not to tear the dough.) Remove the tart shell from oven.
5. Use bits of the reserved dough to fill in any holes, including those from the tines of the fork. It's best to knead the bits of dough with your fingertips to soften them first, then gently work them over any holes in the still-warm dough with a soft touch, to cover them over.
For the beer filling
6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and eggs until smooth. Whisk in the beer, vanilla, and salt.
7. Scrape the beer mixture into the pre-baked tart shell. Strew the 2 tablespoons of butter cubes over the tart and bake the tart until it's just set, 30 to 35 minutes. The filling will puff up and be jiggly and soft, like barely-set jello, when it's ready. Let the tart cool on a wire rack before serving.

Serving: I gave instructions before the recipe to help release the tart from the tart pan, which should help getting a neat slice out. It's often served by itself, but could be served with softly whipped cream, crème fraîche, or vanilla ice cream.

Storage: This tart is best served the same day that it's made. The dough can be made ahead and kept for 3 days in the refrigerator or up to two months in the freezer. It can also be rolled out and frozen for up to two months, if well-wrapped.

*In case you want to give the Alléno Paris recipe a try, it’s 402g cream, 138g of Guinness beer that’s been reduced by half, 172g egg yolks, and 287g of powdered sugar for 10 medium-sized tarts (poured into pre-baked tart shells and baked at 120ºC for 25 minutes), which I estimate might make 5 standard-sized (9″/23cm) tarts, for those doing the math.

Related Links and Recipes

French Sugars

Baking Ingredients and Substitutions

La tarte à la bière (Slate.fr video)

French Tart Dough

French Pear and Almond Tart

Tarte au citron

Chocolate Tart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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50 comments

  • February 6, 2017 3:12pm

    Belgium has a big tradition of cooking with beer, from carbonnade flamande to ice cream made with kriek lambic. I went to a restaurant in Brussels where every dish on the menu was made with beer.
    Your tarte looks great. I usually use parchment for the crust; foil must help keep the top from overbrowning. True? Reply

    • February 6, 2017 3:17pm
      David Lebovitz

      I find parchment paper doesn’t fit so snugly into the corners of the dough, and it gets brittle once baked and can tear, so I use foil. Reply

  • Cynthia Rieth
    February 6, 2017 3:25pm

    I’ve made your Calvados apple cake twice since it appeared so it looks like this one is next! Reply

  • witloof
    February 6, 2017 4:12pm

    This is so intriguing! I have some Hefeweizen in the refrigerator, now I just need an excuse to bake a tart! Reply

    • Josi Jenneskens
      February 6, 2017 5:51pm

      Here’s an excuse you can use – it’s Monday! Reply

  • Susan
    February 6, 2017 4:52pm

    This recipe and the ingredients pictures made me miss my bakery bf and shopping experiences while living in Belgium. Trying to comprehend the intricacies of the language were humorous at best and my first attempts were shopping circulars and recettes found within. I must try this one! Reply

  • MaryBeth
    February 6, 2017 5:20pm

    Looks great, will have to try it. For the crust, I highly recommend Picard (although you do have to defrost them). Their brisée is especially good. Reply

  • February 6, 2017 5:31pm

    I buy refrigerated pie dough at Trader Joes, but I can never seem to get it to unroll as nicely as you do. The recipe looks fabulous, of course, but I really aspire to just being able to unroll a refrigerated piecrust without it cracking and breaking and sticking to the paper! Reply

  • February 6, 2017 5:36pm

    I find it so funny that many French people choose to use frozen tart dough, since we Americans assume that France is a die-hard make-it-from-scratch culture. Funny and charming. I also don’t think of France as much of a beer culture, but this looks so good that I must be wrong. I can’t wait to try this the next time we’ve opened a growler and have some leftover. Reply

  • Kace
    February 6, 2017 5:40pm

    Curious how sweet the end result recipe was with the pate brisee instead of the pate sucre? Would this be an appropriate tart to serve with a green salad as a light dinner or is it sweet enough that it should be served after dinner like the original? I’m thinking my German husband will *love* this one! Reply

  • Tegan
    February 6, 2017 5:53pm

    This looks stunning, but I may try an experiment substituting cider for beer as that’s what my partner prefers. Reply

  • February 6, 2017 5:54pm
    David Lebovitz

    Kace: This is definitely for dessert!

    Allyson: Parts of France border Belgium and Germany, so there is a connection to those cultures, who are beer drinks. But even in Paris, most young people drink beer nowadays (I think draft beer is cheaper than wine), at least in my neighborhood.

    Maureen: You might want to try removing it from the refrigerator a little while before you unroll it. Most of the store-bought doughs I think are sturdier than homemade ones, and aren’t so particular about how they’re handled. Although the package should advise about the best way to handle it?

    MaryBeth: I’ve used their puff pastry, which isn’t bad, but I still never find that the pre-made stuff has the same buttery flavor as homemade. But I know lots of people use stuff from Picard. Their fava beans, for example, are a time saver : ) Reply

  • christy
    February 6, 2017 6:25pm

    I too tend to have a variety of brown sugars at home. You mentioned one could use light brown sugar…would you pack it tightly like so many american recipes suggest doing? If I were using a turbinado I wouldn’t ask the same question, but I would wonder if that is more similar to what the home cooks there would use for this. Thanks so much, looking forward to making such an appealing winter dessert! Reply

  • Cynthia Cinzia
    February 6, 2017 6:40pm

    And just how does one correctly pronounce Mauviel without it sounding “bad?”  Reply

  • Lydia A
    February 6, 2017 6:44pm

    If I want to try the etoile resto original recipe for one 9″ tart, do you recommend I split the recipe into one-fifth? Reply

  • Meghan
    February 6, 2017 7:50pm

    Hi there, one cup of beer is 250ml, did you use 1 cup or the 125ml you state in the recipe? Thank you, can’t wait to try it! Reply

  • Julia
    February 6, 2017 7:57pm

    Just to make sure, in the Alléno Paris recipe, they want me to use 138 g of beer that I have produced by cooking down 276 g, yes? Or do I start with 138 g of beer and reduce THAT by half so that I end up with 69 g? I’m sorry, my English comprehension skills are apparently absent today.  Reply

  • Logan
    February 6, 2017 7:57pm

    I thought you were suppose to reduce the beer by half? Reply

  • Pete
    February 6, 2017 8:01pm

    David… for us anglophones, what is the correct pronounciation of Mauviel?

    And in the Alleno recipe, that’s 138g of Guinness reduced from 280g? And do they brulee the top? Thanks.

    (Oh, and in the quantities for your filling you list 1 cup as 125ml rather than 250ml.) Reply

  • February 6, 2017 9:17pm

    I, too, am curious why you chose not to reduce the beer. It seems like the reduction would create a smoother tart with less chance for the crust to become soggy! Reply

  • February 6, 2017 9:44pm
    David Lebovitz

    Pete: That’s the already reduced amount (138g) in their recipe. Fixed the metric conversion in the one here. Thanks.

    Cynthia: It would be ‘Moe-vee-el’

    Kathy: I didn’t see any recipes where that was done so I didn’t do it. I think it would still be very liquid even reduced by half but if you try it, I’d be interested in knowing how it turns out.

    christy: Yes, in the ingredient list, I say the brown sugar should be “packed”

    Lydia: Perhaps, but I haven’t tried it, but most tart shells hold about 2 cups of filling, or roughly .5l, so you could work from there in your calculations? If you try it, would be interested in knowing how it turns out, too! Reply

  • Patricia
    February 7, 2017 5:55am

    I know what you mean about the loveliness of the imperfect made-at-home desserts. My mum made the flakiest pie crusts and the crusts looked imperfect and a little messy when they spilled over a bit during the cooking process. I rather like it like that. Reply

  • February 7, 2017 11:02am

    I remember my grandmother who was from the north of France making this when I was a child but I have not seen it since. Definitely going to try. Reply

  • February 7, 2017 12:05pm

    Oh, thank you! I am so excited to try this! Reply

  • tomp
    February 7, 2017 4:50pm

    120C for the Alleno recipe..that’s 250F
    is that correct? Reply

    • February 9, 2017 12:32pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, that’s the temperature they’ve given. Pastry chefs often cook very rich custards like this at very low temperatures, which yields a creamier filling when finished. I posted the original recipe here, if you want to check it out. Reply

  • February 7, 2017 6:10pm

    How intriguing! This would be a fun dish to take to a shared meal and see if everyone can guess the ingredients. Reply

  • TJ
    February 7, 2017 6:40pm

    I can’t wait to try this one. I’ve always heard that beer and chocolate go great together, but I’d rather go for beer and pie any day! Reply

  • February 8, 2017 7:35am

    looks wonderful, I’m used to liqueur infused deserts, so this is a nice change, also love how “dense” this looks, in a good way, that is, not a lot of volume but, given the ingredients, dense with flavor! thank you for this! Reply

  • February 8, 2017 11:44pm

    Never seen a tart made with beer before, am really looking forward to giving this a go, especially with the Guinness.

    When it comes to tin foil v’s parchment when baking blind I actually use a couple of layers of cling film. It gets into all the nooks and cranny’s, and no it doesn’t melt. Reply

    • February 9, 2017 12:25pm
      David Lebovitz

      That’s interesting, but isn’t it hard to get the beans and plastic out, because the plastic is so soft? (And must get softer when warm.) Some professionals use commercial-sized round coffee filters, because they’re available in some restaurant kitchens, but I use foil because it’s reusable and easy to remove. Reply

      • Pete
        February 9, 2017 9:53pm

        I use clingfilm, too. Works like a dream. Fill it with rice and you’re away.

        For anyone who’s curious, this lady on YouTube shows how it’s done (skip to 4’45”). Reply

      • February 9, 2017 11:27pm

        As long as you use 3 or 4 layers it works fine. I cover over the top of the beans with the cling too and once cooked just lift it out beans and all.

        Cool..Coffee filters, I’ll be using them in work from now on Reply

  • Eric
    February 12, 2017 8:37pm

    I had a bit of disaster with this recipe. When I poured the filling (which was quite liquid-like) into the shell, it proceeded to ooze out (luckily onto a baking sheet). The description to “scrape” it didn’t match my filling, so I’m wondering if I made an error somewhere. After baking it a bit, I scraped some of the cooked oozing back into the shell and now have something that looks edible. But, I’m wondering about the quantity of beer (or how to make a more fluid-ready tart shell). I look forward to eating the result this evening! Reply

    • February 12, 2017 10:08pm
      David Lebovitz

      Hi Eric,

      The filling is quite liquidly. (I used the word “scrape” because not all the sugar dissolves and there are some solids in the filling.) The first time In made it with pâte sucrée, the flaky shell absorbed quite a bit of the liquid, so I tried it a few more times, and found the tart dough I presented here worked. I did patch the holes made with the tines of the fork with extra dough, as instructed, and didn’t have any oozing out and it baked up great. I used 1 cup of beer & while the filling is quite liquid (like the batch shown in a picture in the post), I didn’t have leakage. I linked to a pretty good video after the recipe from Slate in Europe, that show the consistency and uses the same quantities. Hope that helps! Reply

      • Eric
        February 12, 2017 10:16pm

        Thanks, David! I did try to do some patching, but I will try harder next time! Even with the mishap and most of the filling cooking outside the tart, I think my reintroducing it as a tray-cooked custard will actually work out okay. Meanwhile, I’m making your Coq au Vin and herbed pasta. It’s gonna be a great meal. Reply

  • February 12, 2017 8:42pm

    I’m Flemish Belgian and find the cultural and historical intersections between Flanders and Northern France really interesting – a reason why I was so intrigued when reading Germinal, actually – and I feel like this recipe perfectly expresses the connectivity between them.

    When was Nord-Pas-De-Calais under Flemish rule? Parts of France and Flanders have often been administered together under different occupying authorities (such as during the Spanish, French and Napoleonic empires, and in more recent history during the German occupation of France and Belgium during WWII) but I didn’t realise parts of France actually came under Flemish rule – I’d be really interested to find out more about this! Reply

  • Anna
    February 13, 2017 12:35am

    I turn 21 in ten days, and managed to wheedle out a ban of honey stout from my brother to make this tart. It looks and smells amazing– I was surprised at the odd texture of the fill in pre-baking, but it ended up just like your photos afterwards. Such a delightful recipe! Reply

  • Karin
    February 13, 2017 6:53am

    This was incredibly delicious. And surprisingly simple to make. A definite keeper for the future and something I will surely be making over and over again.

    I was initially worried that the pastry would be too savoury for a sweet tart but in combination with the filling it worked out beautifully as a dessert.

    Many thanks for sharing your efforts! Reply

  • Felice
    February 14, 2017 4:32pm

    I just took mine out of the oven so I haven’t tasted it yet, but am I the only person who had a LOT of leftover filling? I filled the tart shell just barely short of the top and still had enough filling left for a 4-inch tartlet and 2 custard cups. Also, while the shell baked properly in the given time, my filling was set quite a bit more than jiggly after the shorter bake time. Any thoughts?
    The tart smells amazing, though. Looking forward to trying it tonight. Reply

  • monica
    February 15, 2017 4:48pm

    I had the same problems Eric and Felice had: leakage and leftover filling (not as much as Felice though). But the tart tasted so good, my husband and I didn’t care it looked so messy! I used an oatmeal milk stout, rich and very malty. Thanks for the recipe, David! Reply

  • M. Steele
    February 16, 2017 1:08am

    The Alleno recipe is terrific. Blind bake pate sucree: Did, 201gm heavy cream,
    69gm (reduced porter beer),90gm egg yolks,135gm 10x sugar,pinch salt. Baked 3.5 inch tarts in 275F oven, low fan just till set. Came out as smooth as creme brulee. Torching top seems like
    overkill, given sweetness of tart. Thanks
    for recipe David! Reply

    • M. Steele
      February 16, 2017 1:13am

      Sorry, the recipe I used would make about Eight 3.5 inch fluted tarts. Reply

    • February 16, 2017 1:48pm
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks for reporting back and with the proportions you used. I thought people might wince at the amount of cream and yolks, but making them in small tartlets seems like a reasonable portion : ) Reply

      • Pete
        February 17, 2017 5:03pm

        I liked the Alleno tart but it was achingly sweet. Sugar overkill is not something I associate with three star French cooking so I was a little surprised at the amount called for. (Given it’s just a set custard, 250g of sugar to 500g of liquid is mental!) The semolina in the Alleno pastry added an ever-so-slight grittiness that I’d probably skip next time in favour of a regular sweet paste.

        I made it as a 16 x 3 cm tart, but the Alleno quantities fill a 23 x 2.5 cm (9 inch x 1 inch) blind-baked tart shell right to the brim (as long as your pastry is nice and thin). For anyone who wants to have a go, try this:

        With a spatula, combine the yolks, sugar, cream (35% fat) and Guinness reduction. Pass through a fine sieve and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Carefully remove ALL the foam that settles on top (to minimize an unsightly finish). Pour into pre-cooked tart shell and bake in a very low oven until just set. Cool at room temperature. Reply

        • February 18, 2017 9:35am
          David Lebovitz

          Thanks for chiming in & letting us know how it worked out. Yes, that seems like a lot of sugar although reducing beer causes it to be bitter, so perhaps it was to counteract that? (Although bitter is hard to mask, even with sugar.) Reply

  • Sarath
    February 17, 2017 10:18pm

    I used a 10 inch glass pie plate and the tart came out perfectly. The only problem was that the tart shell shrank a bit after the blind-blake, and I just managed to get all the liquid in. There was no problem cutting and serving the tart

    I made two small changes — dark brown sugar instead of light and a hefeweizen beer instead of an amber beer or stout. I presume it was sweeter that what you intended. That said it was very good.

    The next day (valentine’s) I made your chocolate idiot cake, which I have made many times without any problems, but this time I managed to screw it up. I guess I did not wrap the springform well enough with foil to prevent any water seepage because at the bottom of the cake the egg mixture cooked separately! A very thin layer in certain places… I was wondering if I can bake it next time with a pan of water underneath the cake pan instead of placing the cake pan in a larger pan of water? Any ideas?

    I have made quite a few of your recipes and have enjoyed them all. Thanks David. Reply

    • February 18, 2017 9:32am
      David Lebovitz

      The idea of the water bath is to moderate the heat/slow down the baking, so the texture is smooth. Putting a pan of water underneath won’t do anything. You could buy that foil that comes in extra-large sheets to use for wrapping your springform pan. Reply

  • Amelie
    February 18, 2017 1:56pm

    Hej David,

    I made the tarte last night and I haven’t been this excited about a recipe in a long time. I used a local danish amber beer and it turned out DELICIOUS.
    My filling spilled a tiny bit over the crust as well when I poured it in, but that turned out to be fantastic, because it left a thin layer of chewy beer caramel on the outer crust which is just mmmhmmmmmm so good.
    Thank you so much, best recipe I’ve tested in a long time!
    Kindest regards from Copenhagen! Reply

  • Saba
    February 21, 2017 8:10pm

    Hello David, could you give tips on how to avoid pastry crust (whether chilled butter or melted butter methods) shrinking during baking? I have the same problem with both types of pastry dough. Reply

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