Tarte au Vin Cuit
At the lower market in the old town of Bern there is a woman who sells sweet and savoury Gâteau de Vully (basically buttery, cream on bread, either sweetened, or savoury with bacon and caraway seeds).
She also sells little jars of vin cuit, a specialty from canton Fribourg and Vaud (where it's known as Rasinée).
What is vin cuit?
The name is misleading—vin cuit (cooked wine) is actually a thick syrup made from boiling down pears, sometimes apples, and rarely grapes, until they become dark, sweet, sticky, and molasses-y. Traditionally, this was done in big copper pots over open fires.
This method, a way of preserving fruits that might otherwise perish, has been practiced since ancient times, and results in many similar syrupy products like Swiss Birnenhonig, Belgian Sirop de Liège, Dutch Appelstroop, and Nièr Beurre from the island of Jersey. Such syrups were commonly used as sweeteners for families who could not afford the luxury of expensive sugar.
Using vin cuit
Vin cuit can be added to desserts, drizzled over ice cream, or used for a touch of sweetness in savoury dishes like foie gras. It is also a crucial ingredient in the classic Fribourgeois spread, Moutarde de Bénichon, which is typically served with one of my all-time favourite breads, the saffron yellow Cuchaule (thanks Johanna).
But I think the best way to use it is in this rich, flavourful, classic tart from canton Fribourg. It's super simple—cream and vin cuit are baked in a pastry shell—and the results are a soft, sweet, tangy filling surrounded by crisp buttery pastry. Elegant in its simplicity.
The recipe comes from the Terroir Fribourg website, and is an amalgamation of their two versions of the tart.
200 g flour
1 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
100 g butter, cold
125 ml water
200 ml cream
2 tbsp cornmeal
200 ml vin cuit
For the dough
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt.
Add the cold butter in pieces and rub into the flour mixture with your fingers until you have small flakes.
Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the water. Mix this gently until a dough forms. Do not overwork the dough or it will become tough.
Press the dough into a disc, wrap with plastic, and let cool in the fridge for at least half an hour.
When you are ready to roll
Preheat the oven to 240 C / 475 F / gas mark 9
Roll out your dough and line a 28 cm (11 inch) round springform or tart pan. Poke the bottom all over with a fork.
Using pie weights or dried beans on a piece of parchment, bake the crust blind for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a measuring cup, whisk together the cream, eggs, cornmeal, and vin cuit.
Pour over the baked base, turn down the oven to 120 C / 250 F / gas mark 1 and bake for about 40-50 minutes or until set with just a tiny jiggle.
Vin cuit is similar to products like Birnenhonig and Apple Butter, so if you're not in the region, perhaps these alternative syrups, or even molasses, might yield similar results.
Store bought pastry would probably work well too.