Thursday, August 05, 2010

Stone fruit tarts

peach tarts

I am a creature of habit. Whenever life hands me a lot of stone fruits, as in the past few weeks, I went straight into the kitchen and rolled out some sweet tart dough.

Probably it has something to do with the food I eat when I was growing up. Fresh peaches and other stone fruits were rare in Malaysia. I remember when mum needed to make a peach cake, she used the syrupy peaches that came from a can. So I am never a big fan of fresh peaches and apricot. Having said that, I still love stone fruits when they are baked. Safely nestled in the almond cream, in the confine of a sweet tart shell.

stone fruit tartlets

Pretty predictable and boring. That's who I am. But it doesn't change the fact that these tarts are delicious,and should be consumed on the same day they are made.

half eaten

Stone fruits and almond tart

You can use any kind of stone fruits, but I have a weakness for baked apricot. The whole kitchen, or rather my whole apartment, smells like a bakeshop the moment I pulled the tarts out of the oven.

sweet tart dough:
adapted from Desserts by Pierre Herme

2.5 sticks (10 ounces, 285g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1.5 cups (150g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 cup (lightly packed)(3 1/4 ounces, 100g) finely ground almond powder or finely ground blanched almond
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanlla bean pulp or pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
3.5 cups (490g) all purpose flour

Place the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed until creamy. Add the sugar, almond powder, salt, vanilla, and eggs and still working on low speed, beat to blend the ingredients, scraping down the paddle and the sides of the bowl as needed. The dough may loo cuddled- that's all right. With the machine on low, add the flour in three or four additions and mix only until the mixture comes together to form a soft, moist dough- a matter of seconds. Don't overdo it.

Gather the dough into a ball and divide it into 3 or 4 pieces: 3 pieces for 10 inch (26cm) tarts, 4 for 9 inch (24cm) tarts. Or, press the dough into one big disk and cut off as much as you need at the time that you need it. gently press the dough into disks and wrap them in plastic. Allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days , before rolling and baking. Alternatively, the dough can be freeze for up to 1 month.

For each tart, place a buttered tart ring on a parchment lined baking sheet and keep close at hand. Work with one piece of dough at a time, keep the remaining dough in the refrigerator.

To roll and bake the tart shells:
Working on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a thickness of between 1/16 and 1/8 inch (2 and 4 cm), lifting the dough often and making certain that the work surface and the dough are amply floured at all times. (a well floured area makes rolling this rich dough easier) Roll the dough up around your rolling pin and unroll it onto the tart ring. Fit the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the ring, then run your rolling pin across the top of the ring to cut off the excess. If the dough cracks or splits as you work, don't worry- patch the cracks with scraps and just certain not to stretch the dough that's in the pan. Prick the dough all over with fork and chill it for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) and fit a circle of parchment paper or foil into the crust and fill with dried beans or rice. ( i usually skip this step after resting my rolled out dough in the fridge for about 1 hour).

Bake the crust for 18-20 minutes, for a big (9-inch ring), 10-15 mins for a small (3-4 inch ring),  just until it is very lightly coloured. If the crust needs to be fully baked, remove the parchment and beans and bake the crust for another 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden. Transfer the crust to a rack to cool.

Almond Cream
adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup almond flour
2 teaspoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 large egg
2 teaspoon dark rum or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the almond flour, all purpose flour and cornstarch into the bowl.

Beat to incorporate all the ingredients in the bowl. Add in the egg and rum/vanilla extract and continue to beat. The cream is ready when it is homogenous.

Scrape the almond cream into a container and use it immediately or cover and refrigerate to be used within 3 days.

To make the tarts:

Spread a thick layer of almond cream in the baked tart shells. Arrange the sliced fruits on top. You dont have to press the fruits into the almond cream, because the almond cream will puff up in the oven, covering part of the fruits.

Sprinkle some almond flour on the fruits if you like, which will help to absorb some of the liquid released while baking, or you can simply omit this step.

Bake at 350F until the almond cream puff up and turn golden color. The fruit should be soft, and the almond cream firm. Depending on the size of your tarts, it may takes anything from 15-30 minutes. Check after 15 minutes if you are making small tarts and pull the tarts out when they are ready.

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