Thursday, August 6, 2009

Peaches and Pastry

The same day I went blueberry picking, I also picked peaches. The peaches I picked that day are long gone--made into a plum sponge pudding (the recipe for which I will share with you one day) and devoured with vanilla ice cream--but the farm I went to started delivering to the co-op so I picked up a few more peaches Wednesday night. I have been wanting to make a fruit tart all summer and while berries are all well and good, when I saw the peaches I thought, "Peaches."
Somehow between going to the dentist this morning and going to work this afternoon, I managed to fit in my first peach tart trial. As usual, I read several recipes before jumping in and many of them--including Julia Child's, Paula Peck's, and one from this ancient Proven├žal book my sister gave me--put a layer of ground nuts between the crust and the fruit. Paula Peck adds cinnamon to the nuts and I followed her example. It is my guess that the nut layer acts as a barrier between the fruit and the crust, preventing the crust from becoming too soggy on the bottom. It is also delicious.
I was never quite sure why everybody insists on brushing fruit tarts with an apricot or currant glaze when they come out of the oven, but today I learned why. When my tarts came out of the oven the peaches, shiny and lovely when they went in, were lackluster; dull. The glaze restored their shine, their sheen, their peachy keen.
The real star, though, was the pastry. When making tarts, I usually just make a recipe of my go-to pie crust, but today I didn't. The recipe said, "rich tart pastry (230)," so I turned to page 230. The recipe called for 3 hard-cooked egg yolks so I had to try it. I am now completely convinced that hard-cooked egg yolks make the world go 'round. I had a clue after making Claudia Fleming's biscuits (thank you, Deb), which also call for hard-cooked egg yolks, but now I know. I took a bite of tart, an edge piece, and time stopped. My heart, my body, my everything melted as if in sympathetic reaction to what was happening in my mouth. It is a delicate pastry; it is a rich pastry; it is a heavenly pastry.

Rich Tart Pastry

thank you, Paula Peck

  • 2 cups flour, sifted
  • 3 Tbs. sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest, grated
  • 3 hard-cooked egg yolks
  • 2 raw egg yolks
  • Sift flour into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of it and to it add the remaining ingredients, mashing the cooked yolks or passing them through a medium sieve. Using your finger tips, make a paste of the ingredients in the well and gradually incorporate the flour until a smooth, firm ball of dough is formed. Work quickly so the butter does not become oily. Chill the dough until it is firm enough to roll.
  • Roll dough between sheets of wax paper. Once you have lined your tart pan(s), chill in the freezer before baking.
If you find this pastry is altogether too fragile for your purposes, Paula notes that you can substitute 2 egg whites for the raw egg yolks, which will also make for a crisper crust.
I think I will look around for another tart recipe before I am satisfied--maybe something with a custard--but at least I have found the crust.

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