peach, apricot and raspberry free-form tart.

peach, apricot and raspberry free-form tart.

It’s always good to get out of the city. Kenan and I took the opportunity presented by the long weekend to hop a bus down to the outskirts of Baltimore to visit Kenan’s uncle Ephraim, for the Fourth of July weekend (once again, this post is a couple weeks late coming out, but bear with me – it’s gonna be fun). Ephraim and his wife, Sarah, live in a big old plantation house so beautiful and full of awesome things that it makes me want to rethink my existence as a city dweller. When the weather’s nice, they eat all their meals on their patio, surrounded by Sarah’s gorgeous garden. And not only are the house and grounds stunning, but there’s a trampoline, a ping pong table, a swimming pool next door, and a goofy, friendly German Shepherd who always seemed to be wandering around looking for someone to throw a ball for her. Needless to say, all of this made our stay both full of fun and relaxing, certainly worth making our asses numb from sitting so long on the bus to get down there. In order to repay our gracious hosts for the use of their house and grounds, we proposed that we prepare dinner and dessert on Saturday.

adventures in tart.

rolling pin

I didn’t have anything in mind for baking before we left, but something fruity seemed fitting, considering the holiday. I thought a free-form tart would fit the bill. Free-form tarts are super easy, they’re lovely without being fussy, and they tolerate pretty much any kind of fruit. Unfortunately, I hadn’t brought along any of my recipes or cookbooks, so Kenan and I ended up dong some espionage and, er, “borrowing” part of a recipe from the local Barnes and Noble (shh, don’t tell).

With a vague idea of what to make, Kenan and I were off to the store. I decided that peaches, apricots and raspberries would make for a nice, summery combination. When we got back to the house, I prepared the crust so it had ample time to sit in the fridge before baking. I used an equal amount of butter and shortening this time, and it turned out great; flaky and yet still flavorful, although I think next time I might add a bit more butter. I also used a more basic dough recipe, with no sugar, so the fruit could stand out a little more on its own. While the crust was cooling, we played a few rousing games of ping pong and traipsed about on the trampoline, waiting until it was time to prepare the dinner.

When it was baking time, I brought the crust out of the fridge and rolled it out to about a 12-inch diameter. Then I tossed the fruit with some cinnamon and nutmeg. Then the fruit went onto the rolled-out crust, the sides of which I brushed with a simple egg wash. Then I folded the sides over, brushed some more egg wash on top, and sprinkled everything with a generous helping of coarse-grained brown sugar. It looked beautiful, but after I had done all this and it was ready to go into the oven, I realized that I had completely forgotten to add sugar to the fruit and spice combination. Yeah, nice going. I’m going to chalk it up to not being in my own kitchen, although really, the sugar was sitting right in front of me, so I have nothing and no one to blame. Just spaciness. But while the lack of sugar (aside from the sugar sprinkled on the top) was a relatively frustrating omission, it turned out to not be a huge deal, because the crust was great and the combination of the fruits was interesting. The only problem was that the peaches and apricots were just a little shy of perfectly ripe, and thus didn’t develop their own natural sugars as much as would have been preferable in the baking process.

The tart baked up beautifully, the crust golden brown and the fruit soft but not mushy or overcooked. After dinner, we went out to the front porch and lit some sparklers to go along with our dessert (cause really, nothing goes with sweets like sparkles). I was pretty happy with it – the crust was nearly perfect, and the filling, although a bit on the tart side, was very pleasing. Of course, adding some sweetened whipped cream to top it didn’t hurt anything either.

Sunday was another day of travel, and although it was difficult to leave such an idyllic place, it’s nice to go home and sleep in one’s own bed. But as I said before, I’m starting to rethink this whole city-dwelling thing; backyards and open space are kinda awesome, you know?

make it, eat it, sparkle.

tarts and stripes

fourth of july peach, apricot and raspberry free-form tart

free-form tart dough
all-purpose flour 1 1/2 cups
lemon zest 1/2 tsp</td
salt 1/4 teaspoon
unsalted butter and/or shortening, 10 tbsp (1 1/4 stick)
chilled and cut into chunks
ice water 3 tbsps or more as needed
fruit filling
medium peaches, cored, peeled and chopped** 3
small apricots, cored, peeled and chopped 2
raspberries 1/4 cup
lemon juice 1 tbsp or as desired
ground nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon
ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon
granulated sugar 1/4 cup
1 egg mixed with 1 tbsp milk
coarse granulated sugar 3 tbsp

Combine the flour, lemon zest and salt in a large mixing bowl and mix to blend. Add the butter and cut in with a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal, being careful not to overmix. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture starts to hold together. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and form into a ball, then flatten into a disk. Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 2 hours or until ready to use.

When ready to prepare the tart, preheat the oven to about 400 degrees and butter and flour a baking sheet. Toss the prepared fruit with the lemon juice, nutmeg, cinnamon and sugar until combined. Take the dough out of the oven and turn onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll out to about a 11 or 12 inch diameter and place the dough onto the baking sheet. Turn the filling onto the center of the crust, leaving about a 1 1/2 or 2 inch space between the edges of the crust and the filling. Brush the outside edges of the crust with the egg and milk mixture. Fold the crust border over the filling, pleating the crust loosely and pinching to seal any cracks that may appear. Brush the tart with more egg wash, and then sprinkle with the coarse granulated sugar.

Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Place the baking sheet on a wire cooling rack for about 10 minutes, then slide a wide spatula under the tart to loosen. Serve warm, with some whipped cream and sparklers.

tart creamed

photos (and site(!)) by the magnificent boy blue

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4 notes

  1. Boots says:

    I’m with you. Joe and I just spent the weekend in the Adirondacks and we’re rethinking city life as well! But my real comment is: what’s the deal with shortening? Is that hydrogenated oil?

  2. girlcate says:

    Well, the type of shortening I used is hydrogenated oil, yes. But there are lots of non-hydrogenated shortenings out there – the one I would suggest is Spectrum Organic, which you can get at lots of places. Shortening doesn’t create quite as good a flavor as butter, but it makes things a lot more flaky and tender than butter, so I think it’s nice to use them together.

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