Freeform pastry makes for an easy, impressive brunch or lunch dish
As I kid, I ate a lot of canned peaches, especially during the bleak winter months when fresh fruit options were sparse and expensive. Today, we are fortunate to have an extensive selection of produce year-round, but some of it is shipped great distances to get to our grocery stores. Whenever possible, I try to buy local first, then I look and see what the next closest geographic option is. I’ve started applying the same principles to canned goods and was recently astonished when I took the time to read labels more closely to discover that some of the canned fruit was from halfway around the world! When developing this recipe, I opted for canned California cling peaches, partially because they have no preservatives and are often packed in their own juices. Plus, they are an easy and economical way to enjoy the awesome flavour of perfectly-ripened peaches anytime you want. Did you know that when cooked, canned peaches maintain their shape and firmness better than fresh or frozen? That was important to me for this recipe because I wanted the peaches to look pretty on the tarts, even after baking.
I opted for a buttery, freeform pastry because I find this kind of dough so much easier to work with than traditional piecrust. These tarts were a snap to put together and were so gorgeous and flavourful – I know I’ll be making them often. The combination of sweet, juicy peaches with creamy ricotta and peppery arugula is absolutely irresistible.
- 1 1/4 cups (310 mL) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) white sugar
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) cold butter
- 1 egg yolk (reserve the white for brushing the crust before baking)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons (45 – 60 mL) ice water
- 1 can California cling peach slices, in fruit juice
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) ricotta
- Salt, pepper
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) sliced almonds, toasted
- Egg white (reserved from pastry), beaten
- 1 cup (250 mL) baby arugula (or chopped regular arugula)
- 1/2 fresh lemon
- Make the pastry by putting the flour, salt and sugar in the workbowl of a food processor; cut the butter into 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) sized pieces and add to the bowl. Pulse just until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (about 15 seconds).
- Beat together the egg yolk and 3 tablespoons (45 mL) of the ice water. With the machine running, pour the egg yolk mixture 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 (15 mL) of water and process for 5 seconds more.
- Alternatively, to prepare the dough by hand, put the flour, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. Grate the cold butter into the flour mixture and toss with two forks to combine. Add beaten egg yolk combined with 3 tablespoons (45 mL) of ice water and stir quickly with a fork. Pinch dough to test, as above, and add more water if needed, stirring briefly.
- Turn the pastry out onto the counter and use your hands to gather it into a cylinder about 4 inches long. Cut into four even-sized discs and wrap each in plastic wrap then refrigerate for one hour. If you’re in a rush, pop the wrapped pastry into the freezer for 20 minutes or so. It’s much easier to roll out when chilled. Note that the pastry can made and refrigerated up to 2 days ahead, or frozen for up to a month.
- Once the pastry has chilled, remove from refrigerator, unwrap, and sprinkle both sides of the pastry with a little bit of flour. Place between two large sheets of parchment paper. Working always from the centre of the discs, roll each one into a circle about seven inches (18 cm) in diameter. Lay the pastry circles out onto two parchment-lined baking sheets and refrigerate or freeze for 5 minutes.
- To assemble the tarts, start by preheating oven to 400F.
- Drain the canned peaches, reserving 2 tablespoons of the juice. Cut the peach slices in half lengthwise with a sharp knife.
- Remove the chilled, rolled-out pastry from the fridge or freezer. Spread each one with 2 tablespoons of ricotta, leaving a one inch (2.5 cm) border on the outside of each pastry circle. Arrange six halved slices of peach on each pastry circle, on top of ricotta, being sure to maintain that outer border. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top of peaches. Scatter 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of toasted almonds over each tart.
- Carefully fold the empty pastry border towards the centre of the tart, pinching the dough gently as you work your way around the circle. Brush the border with the beaten egg white.
- Put baking trays into the preheated oven and let tarts bake for 25 minutes. Remove trays from oven; scatter arugula over top then drizzle 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) of the reserved peach juice over the arugula. Return to oven and bake 2 – 3 minutes longer, until arugula is just beginning to wilt.
- Remove trays from oven. Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over the arugula on each tart and serve.
Makes four tarts.
Disclaimer: I received compensation from the California Cling Peach Board for developing this recipe, however all opinions expressed are my own.