You just can’t keep a baker from baking . . . James bought some delectably ripe peaches at the Farmer’s Market in Red Bank and began dreaming of peach tart.
However, the kitchen at the theatre housing is not equipped for a serious baker (thought they did buy a set of measuring cups and spoons just for James!) so he decided to do a rustic-style tart that would not need a tart pan.
Now stage managers are nothing if not resourceful. James has a go-to Pate Brisee recipe that he usually makes in seconds in the food processor. But with no food processor in sight, he started thinking like a pioneer baker. (You know, the kind of pioneer baker that made pate brisee in his log cabin on the frontier!)
First, he cut up the butter into 1/4″ cubes and froze it overnight.
No pastry cutter? No problem! James just used his trusty Bowie knife — uh, butcher knife — to cut the butter into the flour mixture on the cutting board.
Then it came time to roll out the pastry. No rolling pin, of course, but a wine bottle worked nicely.
James reports that the crust was one of the flakiest, most delicious he’s ever made and the dessert was a hit.
Here is actress Phillipa Soo trying the Rustic French Peach Tart. She is playing Agnes in the production of THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES.
Rustic French Peach Tart
Pate Brisee (aka the crust)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 to 4 Tbsp ice water, very cold
1. Place the flour, salt, and sugar into a food processor and pulse until well combined. Add half of the butter cubes and pulse 6 to 8 times. Then add the other half of the butter cubes and pulse 6 to 8 more times. You should have a mixture that resembles a coarse meal, with many butter pieces the size of peas.
2. Add a couple tablespoons of ice cold water (leave the ice in the glass!) to the food processor bowl and pulse a couple of times. Then add more ice water, slowly, about a tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition, until the mixture just barely begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it’s ready, if not, add a little more water and pulse again. Try to keep the water to a minimum. Too much water will make your crust tough.
(If you are in a frontier log cabin with no access to electricity or a food processor, place ingredients on a cutting board and literally cut them together. Sprinkle in the ice water as needed to make the ingredients into a dough.)
3. Remove the mixture from the food processor and place on a very clean, smooth surface. If you want an extra flaky crust, you can press the heel of your palm into the crumbly mixture, pressing down and shmooshing the mixture into the table top. This is a French technique called “fraisage.” Do this a few times, maybe 4 to 6 times, and it will help your crust be extra flaky. Then, use your hands to press the crumbly dough together and shape into a disc. Work the dough only enough just to bring the dough together. Do not over-knead or your crust will end up tough. You should be able to see little bits of butter speckling the dough. When these bits of butter melt as the crust cooks, the butter will help separate the dough into flaky layers. So, visible pieces of butter are a good thing, what you are aiming for, in the dough. Sprinkle the disc with a little flour on all sides. Wrap the disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour. (At this point you can freeze the dough disk for several months until ready to use. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding.)
4. When you are ready to roll out the dough, remove the disk from the refrigerator and place on a clean, smooth, lightly floured surface. Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes to take just enough of a chill off of it so that it becomes easier to roll out. Sprinkle some flour on top of the disk. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a 12-14 inch circle, to a thickness of about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, check if the dough is sticking to the surface below. Add a few sprinkles of flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Place on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan.
The Rustic French Peach Tart
4-5 ripe peaches, washed, pit removed
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon flour
1/4 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
1/4 cup almond meal
2 teaspoons water
sugar for sprinkling
2 Tablespoons peach jam, warmed
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Slice peaches in half, then cut each half into π inch slices. Place peaches in a medium bowl and drizzle with lemon juice.
3. Add sugar, flour and Herbs de Provence to the peaches. Toss to combine. James leaves the skin on the peaches for the final look of the tart.
4. Sprinkle almond meal over the rolled out dough. This will absorb the juice of the peaches and also give it a wonderful flavor.
5. Place peaches in a single layer over dough, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border around the edge.
6. Fold the edge of the dough to cover the outermost peaches.
7. Combine egg and water and whisk with a fork. Brush crust with egg mixture and sprinkle with sugar. Bake tart in the lowest part of the oven for 50 minutes or until crust is crisp and browned. Let tart cool slightly.
8. Brush peaches with peach jam. Dust edges with powdered sugar.