Peach pie is the traditional way to use up masses of peaches, but it’s a little excessive without a family, or roommates, or an office to feed it to. There aren’t many days when I wish I lived in a massive group house, but a day when I want to make pie is one of those days.
Instead, I decided to take one of my favorite, easy fruit desserts – the rustic tart – and adapt it to single-serving portions. Tartlets are decidedly less impressive than a large, steaming, golden-brown peach pie, but are much easier to freeze and heat up individually. They are perfect for those nights when baking is out of the question, but you really need a hit of fruit-filled pastry. You can also serve them, in a pinch, to unexpected dinner guests – or expected dinner guests on those weeknights when you don’t have time to bake.
The tartlets’ success hinges on the quality of the fruit itself – lackluster peaches will yield a tartlet that tastes blandly sweet, with a washed-out fruit flavor – like a fruit cup. But with lush, fresh, flavorful peaches, the filling will be sweet and tart and taste like summer on pastry. It was a perfect use for the peaches from Homestead Farms.
As for the recipe itself, it is both simple and adaptable, depending on your desires and pastry-driven creative energies. For instance, you could make these into tiny, two-inch tartlets, and serve them piled impressively high on a serving tray. Or you could make six inch tartlets and serve them topped with a large scoop of ice cream. If you really want to do the “big” showy dessert, you could forgo the tartlet concept and make one big open-faced rustic tart, and serve it cut up into large, irregular wedges. The only thing you’ll need to adjust for these different options is the baking time.
This recipe uses a cornmeal pastry crust, which I fell in love with back in March when I made a rustic apple tart. The cornmeal adds crispness to the dough and an extra dimension to the flavor. The filling is simple – peaches, sugar, a little lemon juice, and cornstarch, to thicken the juices. If I made this again, I would have chopped the peaches a little more finely – I only sliced them, and the tips have a tendency to overbrown (as you can see in the photo).
That’s another hit for the August baking project – desserts with summer fruits. I feel as though all my July cooking mishaps are slowly but surely washing away. Could baking be the new yoga? I certainly think so.
Cornmeal Pastry Crust
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter – very cold, and sliced into 1/2 inch chunks.
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup iced water
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, and sugar. With a pastry blender or your fingers, cut the butter into the dough until it is in pea-sized pieces. Add 1/4 cup of the iced water and mix until the dough just holds together. If necessary, add more water, sprinkling it over the dough.
Turn dough out onto a floured worked surface. Divide in half and place on plastic wrap. Flatten into a disk. Wrap each disk in the plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Rustic Peach Tartlets
Makes approximately eight four and half inch tartlets
2 lbs fresh peaches, skinned, cored, and sliced into 1/2 inch wedges
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix the peaches, sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, and salt.
Remove one of the disks of dough from the fridge. On a clean, lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough until it is a approximately 1/8 inch thick (keep the other disk in the fridge until you are ready to work with it). Cut the dough into circles that are approximately six inches in diameter. These are rustic tartlets, so this doesn’t have to be exact, but you can use a cereal bowl as a guide if you feel the need.
Transfer the circles of dough to the baking sheet. Place a mound of peaches in the center of each disk. Fold the border over the fruit mixture, making attractive pleats if you so desire. If you are not baking immediately, place in the fridge until ready to use.
Repeat the process with the second batch of dough and the rest of the peaches.
Before you are ready to bake the tartlets, lightly brush the dough with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Place in the oven. Bake approximately 25 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned and the centers are bubbling.