Peaches are pretty high up on the list of my favorite fruits. In the Midwest, the season for ripe peaches is later in the summer – as opposed to the south where they are available in the Spring. Waiting for a good, local peach in Chicago takes a bit of time but when they do arrive, I celebrate . . .
The peaches I used for this tart are Red Haven Peaches, grown in South Haven, Michigan. The Red Haven Peach is a fairly common variety, and they generally grow to be 3-4 inches across, not very fuzzy on the outside, deep yellow flesh, very juicy, and the stone releases easily. When buying peaches, I look for them to yield slightly to pressure, be very aromatic, and more red than yellow.
Many years ago, when working in the test kitchen at the Chicago Tribune, I was working on a series of peach-focused recipes, with then Test Kitchen Director, Donna Pierce. Our cultural backgrounds had different takes on what spices taste best with peaches and we had a long discussion that enlightened my repertoire. Donna has always added ground allspice to her peach desserts, and I’ve always added a pinch of cinnamon and vanilla . . . I still feel like vanilla and peaches are a good thing, however, as a result of having worked with Donna, I now add a bit of allspice to my peach pie, or tarts.
This peach tart is simple in its ingredients, however, a little finesse in preparation keeps the crust crispy for a long while (even overnight) – keeping the dough as cold as possible before baking is the trick. I almost always put the assembled tart into the freezer for about 20 minutes before baking, this keeps the fat from melting and changing the texture of the baked crust. You can serve this tart warm, but I always let this cool completely before serving at room temperature – it allows the juices to thicken a bit and hold together perfectly. Try serving this with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream, or whipped brie, or whipped sour cream, or a very ripe camembert.
One recipe of Perfect Pie Crust – see below
½ cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
6 ripe, medium Red Haven Peaches
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
Prepare pie crust and hold refrigerated until ready to use. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, set aside. Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
Toss together the sugar, cornstarch, allspice and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl until evenly blended. Set aside.
Slice peaches in half vertically, along their natural indentation, running the knife around the pit. Gently twist the peach in opposite directions along the cut, and separate the peach, removing the pit. Slice peaches into wedges about a half-inch thick and add to the bowl with the sugar mixture. Toss the peaches and the sugar mixture to coat evenly. Add the vanilla and toss again. Set aside while you roll out the crust.
Working quickly, roll out the pie dough to a rough 14-inch circle. Transfer the dough to the prepared sheet pan. Starting at about 2-inches from the edge of the dough, shingle the peach slices, slightly overlapping, making concentric circles of peaches using all of the peaches. Pour any juices that remain in the bowl over the peaches.
Bring up the sides of the dough, and pleat all around the edges, slightly pinching the dough to seal. Transfer the tart to the freezer for 15-20 minutes.
Bake the tart until the crust is unevenly light golden brown, the peaches are very soft, and browned, and their liquid is bubbling in the center, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before serving.
Perfect Pie Crust
[recipe servings=”1, large tart crust, 2, 9-inch single pie crusts or 1, 9-inch double pie crust” time=”Time: 40min”]
7 tablespoons lard*
5 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cups flour
½ to 1/3 cup ice water
Pulse together the lard, butter, salt, sugar and flour in the bowl of a food processor until the mixture is unevenly crumbly with many visible pieces of lard and butter, about 10 pulses.
Pulse in 5 tablespoons ice water, adding more as necessary, to form a crumbly dough that holds together when pressed, about 5 pulses.
Turn dough out onto plastic wrap; knead slightly to bring together.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight.
*this pie dough can be made with all butter if necessary, with equally good results