An Abundance of Summer
Back in the blogosphere...a happy sigh that my computer is up and running again! I'm glad I finally get to share some of what's been happening in my kitchen - a lot of sweet, succulent, summer fruit!
It's been a pleasurable challenge trying to keep up with the abundance of fruit coming my way - blush-colored peaches and nectarines, raspberries and blueberries bursting out of their cartons, watermelons stacked in their enticing hefty greenness. Here are a couple recipes I've made, out of the dozens begging to be made:
White Peach and Raspberry Tart with Pistachio Frangipane
What speaks the language of summer better than a fruit tart? This, however, is a bit of a twist on the traditional berries-and-pastry cream combination. The last time I made frangipane, it was for a rich, autumn-colored tart. It turns out frangipane makes a perfectly delectable cushion for some ripe peaches and raspberries as well. The piquant nuttiness of the pistachio frangipane plays off beautifully against the floral, honeyed sweetness of the peaches and the puckery tartness of the raspberries. As well, I think the frangipane gives the tart a bit of heft and substantialness that makes it ideal for dessert after dinner, perhaps with a glass of muscato.
Instead of making the tart shell out of pâte sablée, I used pâte sucrée instead, to enhance the delicate sweetness of the dessert. A little trick I learned - brushing the par-baked tart crust with a light coat of egg wash before filling it - prevents the crust from getting soggy and preserves its perfect buttery crispness. I found this tart visually stunning as well; the vividness of the red raspberries and green frangipane in golden crust perfectly epitomizes the luminous vibrancy of summer.
This simplest of desserts that defies simple description: it is famed as a classic French sweet, yet variants of it have been found all over Europe; it is described variously as a pudding, a glorified Jell-o, or a cousin to panna cotta. Perhaps Escoffier describes it best; he called it, "one of the best sweets served."
Although blanc-manger is beloved as the can't-fail dessert of French newlyweds, the keys to this dessert's appeal are its utterly smooth texture and its pure white color. Not surprising that such a soothing-seeming creation would have been served to the infirm and indisposed back in the Middle Ages as a balm. But in its current incarnations, blanc-manger is far from bland. Made with almond milk sweetened with sugar, folded with softly whipped cream, its meltingly ethereal - like biting into one of those big fluffy cumulus clouds up in the blue summer sky.
Perhaps because it also bears a passing resemblance to one of my favorite Asian desserts, almond tofu (actually an almond-flavored gelatin usually served with a mix of fruits), it is easy to see how well blanc-manger takes to the addition of other flavors - it's like the perfect white canvas. I followed Dorie Greenspan's example and tossed in some more of my raspberries, turning the dessert from stark to striking. A drizzle of raspberry coulis is about all the dressing up this dessert needs - just right when you want to keep things nice and simple while enjoying the pleasures of summer.
White Peach and Raspberry Tart with Pistachio Frangipane
adapted from Regan Daley's In the Sweet Kitchen
makes one 9-inch tart or five 3 1/2-tarts
1 1/4 sticks (146 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (86 g) confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/4 cup (35 g) almond meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, room temperature
1 3/4 cups (232 g) all purpose flour
1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios, skinned
1/3 cup (66 g) sugar
5 tablespoons (68 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk (save egg white for egg wash)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons (20 g) flour
2-3 three ripe white peaches
1/2 pint raspberries
apricot jam for glaze
For the tart shell: Place the butter in a food processor and process until soft and creamy.
Add the confectioners' sugar and process until well blended and smooth.
Add in the almond meal, salt, and vanilla extract and process until well blended.
Add in the egg and egg yolk and process until just blended; scrape the bowl down as necessary.
Add the flour and pulse just until the dough starts to come together into a ball; don't overprocess. The dough will be very soft like cookie dough.
Scrape the dough out of the food processor and make into a ball. Flatten out into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill in refrigerator for at least 4 hours until it is firm enough to handle.
When you are ready to bake off the tart shells, take the dough out of the refrigerator - let it warm up a bit if necessary but not too much because it will start melting fast.
Roll out the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap to 1/8" thickness. If the dough gets too soft, place back in the refrigerator to firm up.
Place the tart rings you will use on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.
Cut out circles of dough to fit into desired tart rings. Press the dough carefully into the tart rings and up the sides, being careful not to stretch the dough or it will shrink when baked. Place the rings into the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes. Trim off the excess dough from the top of the rings.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F while chilling the tart shells. When you are ready, line the shells with parchment and fill with beans or rice to keep the shells weighed down.
Bake shells for about 20 minutes until they are lightly colored and the shell feels dry to the touch. Remove from the oven and place on a rack. Remove the beans and parchment and brush the bottoms of the shells with a light egg wash (made from an egg white and a bit of water). Let finish cooling.
For the frangipane: Place the pistachios in a food processor along with the sugar. Process until finely ground and combined.
Add the butter and process until smooth.
Add the egg and egg yolk and process until combined, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add the almond extract and combine.
Add in the flour and pulse just until combined - do not overprocess.
You can use the frangipane at this point or refrigerate it for up to two days. Let it come to room temperature before using.
When you are ready to bake the tarts, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the frangipane evenly into the shells - do not overfill because it will puff up in the oven.
Wash the peaches, slice in half and discard the stones. Slice each half into thin slices and arrange evenly over the frangipane on each tart.
Bake for about 25-30 minutes for small tarts, 50-60 minutes for a large tart, until the frangipane is puffed and golden and the center of the tart is firm to the touch.
Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. When you are ready to serve, place raspberries over the tart. Warm a bit of apricot jam in a saucepan over the stove to make a glaze, and brush gently over the entire top of the tart. Let cool before serving.