For some reason, I’m extra-impatient for stone fruit season this year. Maybe it’s all the news of the drought; maybe I’ve just burned myself out snacking on apples all winter. But somehow, I’ve convinced myself that the peaches and plums and nectarines will be extra-delicious and extra-hard to get my fill of this year. So I’m missing them terribly.
But try as I might, I can’t make peaches appear at the markets out of sheer willpower. So when, a couple weeks ago, my friends and I started craving a warm fruit tart, we had to improvise a little. Fortunately, we were able to get our hands on some truly phenomenal dried peaches and nectarines. I could have tried simmering them in water to soften them up for baking, but then I had another idea. What if I cut up the fruit and soaked it in Amaretto for a while? Would that make them suitable for piling into a tart?
The answer, I’m happy to say, is a (qualified) yes. The peaches soaked up the sugary liqueur, taking on an intense sweet almond perfume. Just eating pieces out of the bowl was enough to make our eyes roll back in our heads. The fruit didn’t soften quite as much as I’d hoped, making the tart a little difficult to slice, and the exposed edges singed a bit in the heat of the oven. But really, given how improvised this was, those are small and mean quibbles. The combination of squishy, boozy fruit and crumbly pastry was incredibly satisfying, and Sam said he thought the burned bits on the fruit were the best part, since they cut the sweetness with a bit of caramel-bitterness.
Is this ever going to replace a juicy, in-season peach tart? No, but it’s incredibly delicious in its own right. It’s a decidedly grown-up dessert, elegant and boozy without being too fussy. And as something easy and slapdash–the kind of thing you can rustle up from the pantry in a couple of hours and serve to a crowd–it’s mighty fine. I don’t even think you need whipped cream or ice cream here. Let the fruit and the liqueur do the talking.
You guys. I had to turn on the defroster in my car this morning. Summer is officially over.
I’m in pretty deep denial about this. Normally, by September I’m ready for knits and scarves and soup. But this year blew by so goldurned fast, I feel like summer only just started. I didn’t get nearly enough of the sticky blue heat and bright evenings and lemonade. I’ve worn a swimsuit exactly once since New Year’s. I want to stomp my feet and say it’s not faaaaaaiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrr. But really, there’s nothing I can do. Time is slippery, and the weather’s already cooling off.
But at least there are still tomatoes. Oh, are there tomatoes. Bushels of red at the market, and I couldn’t be happier. Even though I can’t appreciate a raw summer tomato, just the fact that it exists is comforting to me. As long as the tomatoes are juicy and fragrant, I can still hold on to a little bit of summer. When they turn mealy and inert, I know I have to finally come in from the cold.
So here’s a compromise: an end-of-summer tomato tart. Puff pastry, brushed with mustard, sprinkled with thyme, topped with tomatoes, and covered with dabs of Brie. I used an extra-soft and stubbornly melty cheese; the liquid edges ran thin over the tomatoes and caramelized in the oven into a shattering cheesy crust, while the larger pieces stayed molten and oozy. It’s basically cheating, this tart: combine puff pastry, ripe tomatoes, and Brie, and you’re guaranteed a winner. But then add the winey bite of Dijon and the resiny fragrance of thyme, and suddenly you’ve got something sophisticated enough for company yet satisfying enough for a snack.
This thing is absurdly quick to put together, and can go from oven to table in about half an hour. I’ve made two in the past week: one for three friends sipping tea in the afternoon, one for a party with beer and wine and ridiculous costumes. Both times, it was devoured within minutes. I’ve had it warm and at room temperature, and it’s phenomenal both ways. As a consolation prize for losing summer, it’s pretty unbeatable.
I made my first galette over the weekend. I’m quite proud, actually–I’m usually a bit of a pie wimp, and this was my first foray in a long time into the realm of flaky dough and bubbling fruit juices. As far as pie-type desserts go, I can now say from experience that a galette is an unfussy cook’s best friend: there’s only one crust to roll out, no pan-lining or crimping or pre-baking, and even the roughest and most haphazard attempts at folding the dough over the fruit end up looking like you meant to do it that way.
The real revelation here is the pie dough, a rye flour-inflected recipe I pinched from 101 Cookbooks. I love the old-country tang of good rye bread, and the notion of working that flavor into a pie dough was irresistible. Beyond the addition of the rye flour, the dough is pretty classic–flour, butter, salt, and cold fizzy water to keep the whole thing light. It was a dream to work with, rolling without complaint and baking to perfect crisp-flakiness. I could easily see this as the lid for a pot pie, or the wrapper for a batch of piroshki, and certainly as the base for any number of sweet or savory pies. This will be my go-to crust in future, no question.
As for what to wrap the dough around, there wasn’t much contest: nectarines are in their element in California right now, and few things make me weak at the knees like a sweet white nectarine. I found the perfect ones at the farmer’s market, fat and smooth and just coming into sugary ripeness. I cut the nectarines into wedges–more than a few of which disappeared along the way–and nestled them into the center of that simple gorgeous rye dough, on a bed of almond meal and flour to catch any oozing juices. Within ten minutes of putting it in the oven, the whole kitchen smelled like a little corner of summer: hot collapsing fruit and browning sugar and butter. It was the kind of dessert that makes you a little mournful when it’s gone, longing for just a little taste more of shattering crust and slumped fruit.
This was my first galette, and the first of many. I’m already planning my next one–perhaps something savory as we slide into fall. I’ll keep you updated.
Okay, yes, I disappeared for another week. But I have an excuse. A really damn good excuse. An outrageously decadent, completely indulgent, fussy-fussy fancy-fancy excuse. An I-stayed-up-until-one-in-the-morning-on-a-Thursday-night-up-to-my-elbows-in-butter excuse.
I made you a tart. But I eated it.