12 August 2011

Peach's Here! Peach's Here!

Once summer really kicks in there's nothing I look forward to more than peaches.  It's easily my favorite fruit.  And I'm sure it won't surprise you to know that I'm a purist about it. 

Raw please.  Don't mess with perfection. 

But that's the thing, the peach isn't always perfect.  It's nowhere near as reliable as say, the apple.  You can bite into a Granny Smith apple and know what you're going to get 9 times out of 10.  Not true with the peach.  Now that I'm thinking about it, most of my favorites like papaya, mango and plum have this issue.  If they are picked too early or you slice them too soon they can taste sour, or worse, taste blank.  Nothing is more disappointing.  I'd rather have nothing than an imperfect peach.  And once you've had a perfect peach there's no settling.  Right?

Here's the situation.  Peak peach time was around the corner and I knew I was going to be out of town when it started.  Ugh.  I was just hoping, praying even, that I wouldn't miss it.  I've been thinking about a Fresh Peach Tart since June.  This is tricky business because you never know what the season will yield or how much of a window you're going to get from year-to-year.  Don't be fooled by the piles of peaches you see in the produce section all summer, that's not what you want.  You want the fuzzy globes whose perfume is so strong it slaps your face when you walk in the store.  That only lasts a week, maybe two.   

I got home late on a Friday night and by Saturday morning I was on a peach hunt. I didn't miss it!!  So, so happy.

Peaches procured all I needed was a crisp, flaky crust, some non-jello glaze-y goo and a little Chantilly cream to send it over the edge.  It nearly makes itself.

Now if I had my own cooking show, this would be the part where I would tell you my personal story about peaches that would make me infinitely more relatable to you, the viewing audience.  As I want nothing more than to be more relatable to you, the reading audience, here it goes:
My Mom gets really nostalgic when we talk about my love for peaches.  They remind her of being pregnant with me and she claims it was the only thing she craved during those 9 months.  Money was tight, but she had to find some way to satisfy her craving.  She did the only thing she could, she spent her collection of silver dollars on those yellow and orange pieces of heaven!  Yeah, my Dad was less than happy, but she says it was worth it.  Of course I've heard this story a hundred times and it never gets old.  I kinda think of peaches being my own personal fruit.


I hope we're closer now.  I'm definitely feeling it.

Let's get to the tart making and eating already.  Think of it as a strawberry pie but with peaches.  So refreshing and sweet and to me it tastes like my summer birthday.

Fresh Peach Tart
yield – 9 – 10” tart

1          tart shell (baked) * see below
¾ c      sugar
1/3 c    orange juice
1/3 c    water
1 T       lemon juice
2 T       cornstarch
2          fresh peaches, pitted and roughly chopped
¼ t       ground nutmeg
1 t        butter
1 t        vanilla
8          peaches, pitted, skinned (optional) and sliced

Combine sugar, orange juice, water, lemon juice, cornstarch, 2 peaches and nutmeg in a blender or food processor.  Puree until smooth.

Heat puree in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Stir occasionally until the mixture thickens.  Stir in butter and vanilla.  Cool slightly.

Fill baked shell with sliced peaches alternating with the glaze.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

**To keep shell crisp, coat with slightly beaten egg white wash when it’s warm from the oven.  Let cool completely before filling with peaches and glaze.

Tart Shell
1 - 9 to 10-inch tart

5 oz.     flour
1/8 t     baking powder
1/4 t     salt
2.25 oz cream cheese
3 oz      unsalted butter, cubed and cold
1 T       cold water
1/2 T    cider vinegar

In a food processor, combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Pulse to blend and "sift" the flour.  Add the cream cheese and pulse until no pieces of cheese are larger than a pea.  Add the butter and pulse until the butter pieces are also the size of pea.  Add the water and vinegar and pulse until the dough starts to form loose large clumps.  Do not go so far as to form the dough into a ball--this is a misnomer and takes the dough too far.  You will want some "sheets" of butter in the crust to make it flaky.

Dump the dough (parts of it will be crumbly) onto a large piece of plastic wrap.  Draw up the edges of the wrap to the center in order to form the dough into a disk. Wrap tightly and refrigerate anywhere from 2 hours to 24 hours.

On a floured surface roll the dough out into an even circle (it's really easy to roll) 2 inches larger than your pan using a floured pin.  Keep moving and flipping the dough over when you're rolling it out to make sure it's not starting to stick to the bench.  Carefully transfer the dough to the pan and lay it into the corners and up the sides of the pan.  Do not stretch the dough or force it.  Trim the edges around the form and chill it in the freezer for 30 minutes while the oven preheats to 425 degrees.  Reserve some of the trimmings.

Pull the dough from the freezer and poke holes in the dough with a fork.  Line the raw dough with parchment paper or plastic wrap and fill with dried beans or rice or ceramic dough weights.  Fold the lining in over the weights.  

Bake (on a sheet pan for easy oven removal) until the crust is set for 10-15 minutes.  Remove the weights and the parchment paper and bake the shell for another 15 minutes or so until the crust is golden brown (not pale white!).  Coat with beaten egg white to preserve the crispyness of the crust once it's filled.  Let cool completely before filling.

How to Skin a Peach (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  While you're waiting for the water to boil, score the bottom of each peach to make skin removal easy.

Once boiling lower the peaches gently into the water.  Wait 15 seconds.  

Remove peaches from the water and plunge immediately into an ice batch.  Once cool, just rub your thumb over the scored area and the skin will peel away.

Pit, slice and fill your shell.

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