Freeform crust makes for an easy assembly!
I first started making rustic tarts like this in my university days, when I didn’t own a pie plate or rolling pin; I still enjoy making them because they are so pretty. With its freeform, sweetened shortcrust pastry, this peach tart has a pleasing hand-made appearance whose beauty is matched by its fantastic flavour. Keeping the skin on the peaches gives the tart’s exposed filling a nice pop of colour and the inclusion of cardamom adds a subtle, intriguing element. This tart is actually really easy to make and the pastry is delightfully tender and flaky; it’s a great option for people who feel intimidated by preparing more conventional pies. I served this peach tart with my delightful salted caramel ice cream but vanilla would be lovely too.
For the pastry:
- 1 1/4 cups (310 mL) flour
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) white sugar
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, chilled, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 3 – 4 tablespoons (45 – 60 mL) ice water
Equipment needed: food processor
For the filling:
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) green cardamom pods or 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) ground cardamom
- 3 tablespoons (45 mL) granulated white sugar
- approximately 1.5 pounds (675 grams) fresh ripe peaches
For the pastry:
- Put the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of the food processor and pulse briefly to combine.
- Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal (about 15 seconds).
- With the machine running, pour 3 tablespoons ice water through the feed tube in a steady stream. Turn off machine as soon as you have finished adding the water.
- Pinch a teaspoonful of the dough with your fingers to see if it holds together. If it seems a bit dry, add one more tablespoon of water and process for 5 seconds more.
- Turn the pastry out onto the counter and use your hands to gather it into a disc about 1 inch thick and 5 – 6 inches across. Cover the pastry with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about one hour. This chills the butter again and also allows the flour to become fully hydrated.
- Note that you can make the pastry up to one week ahead; if it’s been chilling for more than an hour, however, you will need to let it sit out of the fridge for about 30 minutes before rolling.
- Once the pastry has chilled, remove from refrigerator and place on a lightly floured surface. Working always from the centre of the disc, roll the pastry into a 15 inch circle that is uniform in thickness.
- To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter, after each time you roll it, turn it a quarter turn, lifting it gently off the counter as you do this. Another option is to roll the pastry out between two sheets of parchment paper; you may need to sprinkle a little flour on the top and bottom of the pastry to keep it from sticky to the parchment.
- Transfer the large pastry circle to a parchment paper lined baking sheet (a pizza pan is great if you have one). Refrigerate the pastry while preparing the filling.
For the filling:
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Put the white sugar in a small bowl.
- Using a mortar and pestle (or the bottom of a heavy cup), crack open the cardamom pods. With your fingernail or the tip of a knife, scrape out the small dark seeds inside. (Note: you can use purchased ground cardamom instead, but it won’t have quite the same flavour.)
- Crush the small seeds with the mortar and pestle or heavy cup. Place them in a small sieve and gently shake it over the bowl of sugar. You want to get the flavourful small pieces of cardamom seeds into the sugar, leaving any debris behind.
- Keep shaking the sieve until you’ve added about ½ teaspoon of crushed cardamom seeds to the sugar, then set the mixture aside.
- Wash and rub the peaches to remove any fuzz.
- Cut the peaches into ½ inch thick slices, discarding the stem ends and pits. You want about 4 cups of slices.
- Place the peach slices in a large bowl and sprinkle the sugar and cardamom mixture over top. Stir gently with a rubber scraper to combine.
- With a large spoon, scoop the peach slices into the centre of the pastry circle, leaving a three inch border of pastry around the peaches. The peaches should be evenly distributed in the centre of the pastry (i.e., not heaped up in the middle).
- Scrape any remaining sugar mixture left behind in the bowl and sprinkle it over the peaches.
- With your fingertips, gently fold the border of the pastry up and over the peaches, pleating it as necessary. Press down gently on the pleats to make them stick. If you accidentally make any holes in the pastry, pinch the edges together to seal them up.
- Bake the tart in the centre of the oven for about 35 – 45 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown; if it appears to be cooking too quickly, reduce the heat to 375F.
- Remove the tart from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Best served within 4 hours of baking.
Makes one 12 inch tart, serving 8 – 10.