Photos by 
Jessicarobyn Keyser
Jessicarobyn Keyser

This Spinach Dip Tart Is a COVID-Friendly Way to Eat as Much Dip as You Want

by 
Sara May
February 15, 2022

As this pandemic drags on and on, I’m really missing some of the simple pleasures I used to take for granted, like directing my dagger stare at loud talkers in the movie theater, or being crop dusted at concerts, or double-dipping in a communal appetizer with friends and strangers. This time of year in particular makes me nostalgic for the powdered-onion-soup-mix and spinach dip that my mom used to shove inside a gutted loaf of pumpernickel bread.

While there’s lots to be said conceptually about a vessel that can both contain a dip and be used to eat said dip, it’s strangely fussy in practice. Not that I mind eating a lot of bread, but it’s also… a lot of bread. And the more you eat, the more the whole dish begins to lose structural integrity. Plus a lot of bread is wasted (a heinous crime in this household) as the bottom of your “bowl” inevitably becomes so soggy with dip that it’s too gross for even the most dedicated gluten fan.

To satisfy my cravings for the marriage of creamy spinach and earthy pumpernickel in a slightly more civilized fashion, I came up with this fancy-looking, but actually quite simple to assemble, tart. Both the crust and the filling are made in the food processor, and the flavor profiles borrow heavily from that package of onion soup mix while skipping the unpronounceable ingredients. Serve this at your next brunch or fancy dinner and smugly tell your guests that you’re just trying to keep them safe from each other’s germs.

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A few notes about ingredients: pumpernickel flour (sometimes labeled coarse rye meal) is available at some natural food stores or 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, I’ll leave you with this trivia: The word pumpernickel comes from the German words pumpern (“an intestinal wind”) and nickel (“demon” or “goblin”). Thankfully, even after eating several slices of this tart, I can say with confidence that I didn’t notice any particularly demonic emissions. Still, that six feet of extra space might not hurt.

Spinach Dip Tart with Pumpernickel Crust

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Serves 8

Ingredients

For the crust

1 tsp caraway seeds

1 cup  all-purpose flour

3/4 cup pumpernickel (whole rye or dark rye) flour, or whole wheat flour if that can’t be found

2 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tbsp black cocoa powder

1 stick unsalted butter, very cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (Note: do not use grassfed/European-style butter, as it does not contain enough water) 

1 large egg

1 tbsp plus 2 tsp cold water

For the filling:

2 packages/10 oz Fifth Season spinach

8 oz cream cheese, softened

2 large eggs

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp freshly-cracked black pepper

3/4 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

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Serves 8

Ingredients

For the crust

1 tsp caraway seeds

1 cup  all-purpose flour

3/4 cup pumpernickel (whole rye or dark rye) flour, or whole wheat flour if that can’t be found

2 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tbsp black cocoa powder

1 stick unsalted butter, very cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (Note: do not use grassfed/European-style butter, as it does not contain enough water) 

1 large egg

1 tbsp plus 2 tsp cold water

For the filling:

2 packages/10 oz Fifth Season spinach

8 oz cream cheese, softened

2 large eggs

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp freshly-cracked black pepper

3/4 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Ingredients

For the crust

1 tsp caraway seeds

1 cup  all-purpose flour

3/4 cup pumpernickel (whole rye or dark rye) flour, or whole wheat flour if that can’t be found

2 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tbsp black cocoa powder

1 stick unsalted butter, very cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (Note: do not use grassfed/European-style butter, as it does not contain enough water) 

1 large egg

1 tbsp plus 2 tsp cold water

For the filling:

2 packages/10 oz Fifth Season spinach

8 oz cream cheese, softened

2 large eggs

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp freshly-cracked black pepper

3/4 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Directions

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 finely grind the toasted seeds in a spice grinder, or with a mortar and pestle.

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 cold water one teaspoon at a time until it comes together.

4. Press dough into a round and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, to hydrate any dry flour and relax the gluten.

5. When you’re ready to roll out the dough, remove from refrigerator and roll it on a floured surface until it’s a ¼-inch thick circle that’s approximately 11 inches in diameter.

6. Press dough down into the tart pan, making sure that the dough is tightly pressed into the corners of the pan. 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. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place 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 as anything other than pie weights after they’ve been baked).

9. Place weighted tart shell on the center 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. Add an extra sprinkling of Parmesan cheese if desired and return the shell to the oven to bake uncovered for 5 minutes more.

10. Remove tart shell from oven and place on a rack. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Make the filling and assemble the tart

1. Place the baby spinach in a large colander and place in the sink. (It’s okay if the spinach is overflowing the colander a little, but if your colander is really small you may have to do this step in batches.) Bring a teakettle full of water to a boil and gently pour boiling water over the spinach. Leave the colander in the sink until cool enough to handle. Remove cooled spinach from colander and place in a clean kitchen towel that you don’t mind possibly getting a little stained. Standing over the sink, wring spinach out through the towel until you’ve removed as much of the liquid as you possibly can.

Note: For a faster, simpler process for wilting spinach, put it in a big bowl, cover with a wet paper towel, microwave for 1 minute, then let it sit without opening the door for 3 minutes. Hot, wilted greens with no water!

2. In the food processor, combine softened cream cheese, eggs, and seasonings. Blend until homogenous. Then add the wilted spinach and pulse it until chopped – 5-10 seconds. Place the mixture in a large bowl and stir in grated Parmesan.

3. Pour spinach filling carefully into the parbaked crust. If desired, sprinkle on some additional parmesan cheese. Place tart on the center rack of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

4. Allow the tart to cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing into 8 pieces. Serve it at room temperature or cold.

About the Author

Sara May

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