After the morning festivities of Independence Day have been dispensed with — you’ve already listened to a reading of the Declaration of Independence, watched the parade and eaten a pie for charity — and while you’re waiting for the evening fireworks to begin, it’s quite likely you’ll fire up the grill and do a little barbecuing, which could very well put you in the mood for more pie.
At which point, you might want to give a nod to the founding fathers for having the foresight to call it quits with England at a time of year when two of the best dessert-making fruits are in season.
And for that matter, a shout-out to Mother Nature is in order for being clever enough to ripen peaches and blackberries at the same time. They taste — and look — so good together.
It would be a shame not to take advantage of all that serendipity, so recipes follow for a few desserts using a peach/blackberry combo. A tart with an oatmeal cookie crust and a crostata, which is sort of a rustic pie. You roll out the dough, plop your filling in the center, and pull the edges of the pie pastry up on top, leaving the center exposed. It’s like a two-crust pie, but with a lot less work. You don’t even need a pie pan. Just bake it on a cookie sheet.
But if you are really in the mood for less work, which may very well be the case on a national holiday, try a peach and blackberry tart with puff pastry. It can be yours in only 45 minutes, and 35 of those minutes are baking time. Of course, to get it done that quickly, you’ll need to use frozen puff pastry. But it’s so good, and so pretty, no one’s going to fault you for that. No one’s even going to know unless you tell them.
If you particularly want to spend the day in the kitchen — perhaps your family annoys you and you’d rather be alone — Google Julia Child’s recipe for puff pastry. That’ll kill the day for you. It’s not really difficult, though it looks it, in case anybody wanders into the kitchen. Seeing you elbow deep into counting 729 layers of classic puff pastry should keep the kitchen clear of interlopers.
Sadly however, making your own puff pastry makes you fully aware of how much butter and cream is in it. Which is another good reason to use the frozen kind. Ignorance is definitely bliss in this case.
The cool thing about making tarts with puff pastry is that they can be completely free-form. You are not limited by the size of your pie pans. Cut your pastry into the size you want your finished dessert to be. Put your filling on top, leaving an unfilled, exposed border. When the tart goes in a pre-heated oven, the heat makes the moisture in the butter contained in the pastry’s 729 layers explode and push it sky high, giving it it’s English name, “puff” pastry. It literally puffs up, with each layer resembling a lighter-than-air leaf. Sometimes called “mille-feuille,” or “thousand leaves,” it’s amazingly flaky, despite being a few hundred leaves short of a thousand.
But 729 layers is a lot of layers, and therefore a lot of rolling and turning and chilling, so there is no shame in using the frozen stuff. Most local supermarkets have it. And you certainly don’t have to tell anybody.
It may not be nice to fool Mother Nature, but everyone else is fair game.
Peach and Blackberry Tart
If you want the blackberries to fully cook up, put them on for the full baking time, as the recipe suggests. If you’d prefer they keep their shape somewhat, pull the tart out of the oven halfway through it’s cooking time and put them on then. While you’ve got it out of the oven, you can turn it around. That never hurts.
1 sheet all-butter puff pastry
4 ripe peaches, sliced
1/3 cup blackberries
4 tbsp. heavy cream
4 tbsp. brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Unroll the puff pastry sheet and place it it on a piece of parchment paper. Score the sides of the rectangle with a sharp knife to create a 1-inch border. Arrange the peach slices in neat rows while leaving the borders uncovered.
Drizzle the cream over the peaches and scatter brown sugar, then top with blackberries. Brush exposed pastry with beaten egg. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes until golden. Cool slightly, then dust with powdered sugar and serve.
Peach and Blackberry Tart with Oatmeal-Cookie Crust
Nonstick vegetable oil
2 cups oatmeal-cookie crumbs (made from about 32 crispy oatmeal cookies)
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup peach or apricot nectar
5 tsp. cornstarch
2 -2/3 cups coarsely chopped peeled peaches
1 -1/4 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 -1/4 cups large blackberries
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 10-inch-diameter fluted tart pan with removable bottom with nonstick spray. Mix cookie crumbs and melted butter in medium bowl until moist clumps form. Press dough evenly over bottom and up sides of prepared pan. Bake until dry, about 10 minutes. Cool crust completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover tightly with foil. Let stand at room temperature.)
Whisk nectar, sugar, and cornstarch in heavy medium saucepan until smooth. Add half of peaches and lemon juice. Using potato masher, mash to coarse puree. Simmer over medium heat until mixture is thick, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Fold in remaining peaches. Spread filling evenly in crust. Arrange blackberries around top edge of tart. Refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 6 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Peach and Blackberry Crostata
For the Dough:
2 -1/2 cups cake flour (plus more for dusting)
3 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter (cut into small chunks)
1/4 cup ice water, plus more if needed
For the filling:
5 large ripe peaches (pitted and cut into 16 slices each)
2 pints fresh blackberries
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. honey
1 large egg (at room temperature)
1 cup mascarpone or freshly whipped cream
For the Dough: Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest in a food processor. Add the butter and zap quickly until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and zap until the dough just forms a ball without being too wet or sticky. Remove the dough from the processor and pat it into a flat disk, about 2 inches thick. Wrap it into plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
For the Filling: Combine the peaches, blackberries, lemon juice, sugar, and flour in a large mixing bowl. Toss the mixture gently to coat the fruit.
Preheat the oven to 365°F.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to soften enough to roll out.
Sprinkle your work surface and a rolling pin lightly with cake flour. Roll the dough out into a 16-inch round, about 1/4 inch thick. If the dough tears, press the edges back together. Transfer the dough to a 12 1/2-inch fluted quiche or tart pan with a removable bottom, allowing the excess to hang over the edges. Spoon the fruit mixture into the dough. Fold in the overhanging edges of the dough, leaving a 6-inch area of fruit exposed in the center. Press the crust into the rim of the fluted pan to form an edge.
To Finish: Place a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or use a double boiler), and heat the honey in the bowl until it is thin. Add the egg and whisk them together. Brush this mixture liberally over the fruit and crust. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet, and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and fruit is bubbly. Remove it from the oven and let it cool slightly.
Serve the crostata warm or at room temperature, with a dollop of mascarpone or whipped cream in each serving.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.