Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Summer stone fruit tart.

This tart is one of my very favorite things to make in the late summer and early fall when the market is full of peaches, plums, and nectarines. It's so versatile because you can use whatever fruit looks, and more importantly, smells best and you can add whatever berries you have or skip them altogether if berries are past their prime. In this one I mixed peaches and nectarines because I happened to have both on hand and blueberries because I had some leftover from those blueberry corn muffins.

I really want to stress that you should let the market be your guide here as your tart will be best if you use the ripest, most fragrant stone fruit. That's not to say you want mushy fruit; it should be firm with a slight give. But it should smell amazing. Go ahead, sniff each piece of fruit. If the peaches don't smell like peaches, don't buy them. Same goes for nectarines, plums, and all other variations. You might feel silly smelling the fruit at first, but you'll be happy you did when you make the tart and it really taste like fruit.


The crust is easy to make and uses a simple technique that makes it really, really flaky. I use the same technique almost every time I bake a pie to give the crust a little more flakiness. The technique is called fraisage; unsurprisingly, the French perfected a technique to make really flaky pastry with a very simple technique. You make the dough as you would any pie crust (I use a food processor to cut the butter into the flour). However, before it's really cohesive, you take it crumbly mass and make it into a 12x4 mound. Then, using the heel of your hand you smear the dough onto the counter one sixth at a time. Gather it up with a bench scraper and repeat.

If, like me, you've always heard to handle a pie crust as little as possible, leave big chunks of butter in the dough, keep it ice cold, etc. this process will feel very wrong. I thought I ruined it the first time. However, when you cut into the baked tart and see the crust with its big flaky shards of pastry you'll know the magic of fraisage.

The other reason this tart is perfect for summer is it's relatively low-fuss. You don't need to make a lattice, blind-bake a crust, or cook the filling before baking. You can make the crust the night before (or even days before), roll it out, pile on the fruit, fold up the sides, and bake which leaves plenty of time to pack a picnic or make dinner.


Freeform Summer Fruit Tart
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated, July & August 2004
Serves 6

Note: You can put the crust together days ahead of time (or even a month, if you freeze it). Just wrap it in plastic and when you're ready to use it, let it sit at room temperature about 10 or 15 minutes before rolling it out. If frozen, thaw in the fridge first, then set it out as directed above.

For the dough:
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3-6 tablespoons ice water

For the fruit filling:
1 pound of peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, pluots, or plumcots (4-5 pieces of fruit)
1 cup berries (blueberries, raspberries, or black berries; strawberries become mushy)
3-5 tablespoons sugar
Sanding or turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

1. Pulse the flour, and salt in a food processor, to combine. Scatter butter pieces over the flour and pulse until pea-sized butter pieces remain, about 10-12 1-second pulses. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of ice water over the mixture and pulse for 1 second. Repeat until the dough forms small curds and holds together when pinched between your fingers. Empty the dough onto the work surface. It should be crumbly, but if you have big dry patches, sprinkle them with a couple of teaspoons of water and gently incorporate it with your fingers. With a bench scraper, mound the dough into a 12"x4" lump, perpendicular to your counter. Beginning at the far end, use the heel of your hand to smear one-sixth of the dough onto the surface away from you. Repeat until you've smeared all of the dough. Gather the dough into a 12x4 inch mound and repeat. The dough should now be cohesive. Form the dough into a 4" disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm but malleable, approximately 1 hour.

2. During the last 30 minutes of chilling, halve and pit the stone fruit. Cut into 1/2" wedges and combine with the berries in a medium bowl. Heat the oven to 400 degrees and place an oven rack in the lower-middle position.

3. On a large sheet of parchment lightly dusted with flour, roll out the dough into a 12-inch circle about 3/16 inch thick. This is easily accomplished by working from the center and rolling out, turning the dough as you go. Dust with flour as needed and make sure the dough does not become stuck to the parchment. Place the parchment onto a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm but still pliable, 15-30 minutes.

4. Sprinkle the fruit with sugar and toss to combine. Remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator and mound the fruit onto the center of the dough, leaving a 2 1/2-inch border. Carefully fold the dough up over the fruit leaving 1/2 inch of dough just inside the fold free of fruit. Repeat around the tart, folding every 2 or 3 inches and overlapping the pleats. To secure each fold, brush lightly with water and pinch the pleat but do not press the dough into the fruit.

5. Brush the dough with water and sprinkle with sanding or turbinado sugar. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling, 50-55 minutes. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Using a spatula, slide the tar off of the parchment and onto the rack to finish cooling. Serve warm or at room temperature alone or with softly whipped cream.


Tart keeps for several days in the fridge and is delicious cold but even better reheated in a 350 degree oven.

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