Dark Days and Dark Food: Beet and Goat Cheese Tart with a Pumpernickel Crust

by Sara May

As the buzz of the holiday season fades and the countryside tucks itself under a blanket of snow, the rhythms of the kitchen take on a matching, deliberate slowness. Gone are the elaborate dinners and swaths of festive desserts, in their place are quietly nourishing meals. The rainbow array of summer produce gently ebbs into the more muted tones of winter root vegetables, and dark and hearty grains fortify us against winter’s chill. Echoing the long and dreamy nights of these quiet months, this richly jeweled tart honors this season of contemplation.

A few notes about ingredients: pumpernickel flour (sometimes labeled coarse rye meal) is available at some natural food stores and is easily purchased online. You can substitute rye flour (sometimes referred to as white rye) in a pinch, but know that the texture will be much different. Intensely dark and pleasantly bitter black cocoa powder, also readily available online, gives this crust its distinctive dark hue. Natural cocoa powder can be substituted, but the tart crust will be much lighter in color. Finally, don’t be daunted by the length of this recipe. Although there is time dedicated to each element resting and cooling and taking shape, please note that this is a project easily broken into smaller pieces, which makes it infinitely more manageable. (See MAKE AHEAD below.)

YIELD: one 9” tart, about 8 servings

EQUIPMENT: food processor, 9” tart pan with a removable bottom, spice grinder, sheet tray, pie weights, cutting board, knife, spatula

MAKE AHEAD: The tart dough can be made ahead, tightly wrapped, and stored for up to 3 days in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer. (If frozen, allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding.) The baked but unfilled tart crust, cooled completely and tightly wrapped, can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. The beets can be roasted up to three days ahead, the goat cheese filling can be made up to a day ahead. Keep both refrigerated until ready to assemble.


For the crust:

  • 1 teaspoon (3 grams) caraway seeds
  • 1 cup (139 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup (98 grams) pumpernickel flour
  • ½ teaspoon (1 gram) brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (2 grams) kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon (1 gram) black cocoa powder
  • 1 stick (4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into ½” pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cold water

For the beets:

  • 1 ½ pounds red beets
  • ½ cup dark beer, such as a stout or a porter (optional: substitute stock or water if you don’t have beer on hand)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper

For the filling/assembly:

  • 6 ounces (170 grams) soft chevre-style goat cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons (170 grams) heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (5 grams) fresh dill, plus a few extra sprigs for garnish


Make the crust:

  1. In a small saute pan over medium heat, toast the caraway seeds until they just begin to become fragrant, stirring frequently, about 2-3 minutes. Immediately remove pan from heat and pour toasted caraway seeds into a heat-proof bowl. Allow to cool completely and then finely grind toasted seeds in a spice grinder.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the ground caraway seeds, flours, sugar, salt and cocoa powder. Pulse a few times to mix ingredients. Add cold butter pieces and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. Add egg and cold water and pulse until dough comes together and forms a ball around the bowl of the food processor. If dough is too crumbly to hold together in a ball, add up to 1 more teaspoon of cold water until it comes together.
  4. Press dough into a round and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, to allow the gluten in the dough to fully hydrate.
  5. When you’re ready to roll out the dough, remove from refrigerator and allow to soften slightly at room temperature, about 5 minutes. Unwrap dough and place between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll into a circle approximately 11” in diameter, constantly rotating the parchment paper for an even circle of dough.
  6. Carefully peel off the top layer of parchment paper (dough may feel a bit sticky at this point) and gently overturn the circle of dough into a 9” tart pan with a removable bottom. Peel off the other piece of parchment paper and press dough down into the tart pan, making sure that the dough is tightly pressed into the corners of the pan. (Reserve parchment paper for the baking stage) If at any stage of this process the dough tears or develops a hole, simply press it back into place with your fingers.
  7. Trim off excess dough around the top of the tart pan by gently rolling over it with the rolling pin. Reserve the scraps in the fridge for patching purposes. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork.
  8. Freeze tart crust for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, with one rack at the bottom of the oven and one towards the top. After 20 minutes, remove tart crust from freezer and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Place reserved parchment paper over the tart crust and fill to the brim with pie weights (if you don’t own dedicated pie weights, use dried beans or uncooked rice/barley– just know that you won’t be able to use them for anything else after they’ve been baked).
  9. Place weighted tart shell on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, carefully remove parchment paper and pie weights. If there are any cracks at this stage, repair with the reserved dough scraps. Bake the tart shell on the top rack of the oven, uncovered, for 15 minutes more or until dry to the touch.
  10. Remove tart shell from oven and place on a rack to cool completely.

Make the filling and assemble the tart:

  1. Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel the beets and trim off the ends and taproots. If the beets are extra large, cut into halves or quarters, taking care to ensure that all pieces are similar in size so they cook at the same rate. Place in a small oven-proof container and pour beer over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover dish tightly with foil.
  2. Roast until tender when pierced with a knife, 40-60 minutes depending on the size of your beets. Allow beets to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate. (Cold beets are easier to cut!)
  3. While the beets are chilling, assemble goat cheese filling: combine chevre, heavy cream, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Process until very smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Gently stir in chopped dill.
  4. Assemble the tart: smooth the chevre mixture evenly over the surface of the cooled tart shell. Top with the beets: have fun with this step! You can slice them into thin rounds  and shingle them over the top as I did in the picture, or you can cut them into large chunks and jumble them into a pile, or you could punch out shapes with a cookie cutter– the possibilities are endless! Depending how you slice them, you may find yourself with extra beets– they are delicious on salads. Garnish finished tart with a few sprigs of fresh dill. To serve, carefully cut the tart into eight slices.
  5. This tart is best served cold, although it’s delicious at room temperature as well.

photo credits: Sara May