Most Viewed Stories
Fresh Peach Tart brings last taste of summer
One of the main lessons I learned while traveling in France, Tunisia and Washington, DC, the past three weeks is not to draw comparisons between different cultural patterns and behaviors. I had to understand on a deeper level that each gastronomy is unique and that the ingredients taste totally different from one country to the other.
All I had to do was sit, relax and enjoy. From there on, each meal was a prelude to pure inspiration. I came back with several new recipes, which I am still reconstructing. The highlight of my culinary journey was definitely the 12-course dinner at la Bigarrade and Bistro Chez Georges in Paris.
My wife Anne's recipe this week is a peach tart, which requires preparing three separate elements — tart dough, pastry cream and peaches — and then combining them all together. This allows advance preparation while ensuring that the crust stays flaky and crisp.
Anne prefers desserts that rely on the ingredients to provide flavor — not the sugar — so experiment by reducing the sugar by one-third to one-half. If you prefer a sweeter dessert, increase the sugar called for here by 50 to 100 percent. (For example, if I call for 1⁄2 cup, use 3⁄4 cup or 1 cup.)
I prepared the tarts in individual springform pans from Williams-Sonoma. You can also use a 9-inch tart pan. The ingredients are important, especially when making the tart shells. The highest quality butter will have less moisture and will yield a flakier crust, as will the best quality flour — I use the Trader Joe's equivalent of King Arthur flour or King Arthur itself when I can get it.
We also use only eggs from free-range chickens raised locally. Some recipes call for an egg wash because the dough is baked "blind" or without the filling. I tried this recipe both ways and found the crust is much flakier without an egg wash so I did not include it here. However, if you put the tarts together well ahead of serving, then the egg wash would be a good idea to prevent the tart from getting soggy.
Most recipes call for chilling the dough for between two and 12 hours, but I find it makes the dough tough. I prefer to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes so it is chilled but still soft and pliable.
If you don't have a vanilla bean for the pastry cream, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the cream as the very last step.
We make these tarts when the peaches are at their peak, during the summer months. Use other fruits with the same crust and cream at other times of the year whenever you have fresh fruit. Apples and pears are best sliced and sautéed in butter with sugar sprinkled lightly on top to caramelize and soften the fruit before topping the tart.
FRESH PEACH TART
Sweet Tart Pastry shells, recipe follows
Pastry Cream, recipe follows
12 fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
The Sweet Tart Pastry shells and Pastry Cream may be prepared up to two days in advance.
When ready to assemble the tarts, fill the tart shells half full with the pastry cream. Place the peach slices in a circular fan arrangement on top of the cream. Drizzle local honey over the peaches and serve.
SWEET TART PASTRY
Makes four 9-inch tart shells or 12 4-inch individual tart shells
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1⁄2 cup organic sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3-1⁄2 cups flour
Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the butter, sugar and salt at medium speed until smooth. Mix the eggs in one at a time, blending until smooth and stopping to scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Add all of the flour and mix at low speed just until incorporated. Divide the dough into 4 balls. Flatten each ball into a small, thick disk and refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
To prepare the shells for individual tart pans, divide the first disk into three equal portions. (Leave the remaining dough in the refrigerator until ready to use.) Roll the portions out and line your tart pans. Score the dough with a fork before baking. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove and cool before filling.
2 cups whole milk or half-and-half
1⁄2 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
4 egg yolks
1⁄4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
Heat the milk or half-and-half in a heavy (non-aluminum) saucepan or double boiler. Split the vanilla bean with a sharp knife lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the milk. Add the salt and heat at medium until just under a boil, stirring constantly.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch together in a small bowl. When the milk is hot, use a ladle to add some hot milk to the egg mixture and mix in thoroughly. Add this milk mixture to the hot milk and continue to heat until it thickens and just begins to boil.
Pour the hot mixture through a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl, then add the vanilla extract if using. Cool on the counter for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, and then cover with plastic and refrigerate until cool.