Now calling someone a Flaky Tart might sound a bit rough, and normally it would be. In this case though, when discussing The Flaky Tart Bakery in Atlantic Highlands, NJ it is both accurate (the tarts are flaky) and appropriate. The artistry in flour, butter & sugar that comes out of the small shop on a smallish street is the brainchild, passion and love of Marie Jackson. Jackson, who in a previous career was a financial professional, is not at all flaky. In fact, she is the complete opposite and has the discipline and fortitude to keep baker’s hours (in bed by 8 PM and at work by 4 AM) winter and summer. And we are all the better for it.
Introduced to The Flaky Tart by my aunt, I have been a morning coffee and muffin visitor, periodically, for at least 5 years. While visiting family at the shore for various holidays, I got used to popping in, speaking with Marie, watching a little of the work and drooling over the pastries. This visit, I decided to indulge and brave the display case.
We immediately lusted after the Coconut Cake, and got two slices for our party of three. I am embarrassed to admit, for myself and the group, that the cake did not survive long enough to be recorded in a video or photo. It lives on in my mind though, a tall, airy wedge of vanilla / coconut creaminess, which I will be returning for one day. While in coconut heaven, I happened to notice some press clippings on the wall. Apparently, since I first visited, Marie has been nominated, not once but twice, for a James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef. I can’t imagine a nicer person getting the recognition.
Not that I needed an excuse, but I got the thought that further sampling of such a prominent pastry might improve my own baking and I decided to sample some of Marie’s Key Lime Tart. By sample, I mean buying a whole Key Lime Tart, ostensibly for Mrs. P Chef and the two little P Chefs and having a piece or two with them. I’m glad I had the foresight to make the purchase.
That tart, which did survive long enough to be shot, outdid most of the tarts I have had and most of the key lime pies too. It was at the same time, both more sophisticated, and more tartly flavorful (tart like limes) than others I have had here or abroad. I give it 5 limes out of 5.
Along with the pastries, The Flaky Tart is best known for its croissants, which customers swear are the best this side of the Atlantic Ocean. If they are, which they might be, it will be because of attention to detail, which all starts early in the morning with the doughs. Lesser bakeries often purchased frozen doughs but not at the Flaky Tart where the doughs are stretched, fussed over and rolled out daily.
If you can’t tell, I was impressed and am impressed with Marie, her place and her work. I thought she might have some pointers or tips for our members and when asked she graciously agreed to discuss her career and her baking which I will put up in another post shortly.
If you are visiting the street address is below. I’d call ahead to make sure they are open when you plan to stop by. As of this post they are closed Mondays and Tuesdays and their hours are Wednesday – Friday 6.30 AM to 4 PM. Saturdays 8 AM to 4 PM. Sundays 8 AM to 1 PM.