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"Easy as pie" is a misnomer, because making a pie is not easy for everyone. A tart is quicker and simpler to make, but saying "easy as tart" doesn't quite roll off the tongue. But it's true. And I've been making them all summer.
It all started with an already good recipe by Amanda Hesser on her blog, Food 52. When I found I didn't have the right pan or even the right fruit, the tweaking began. I chose a readily available pan, swapping in apricots and plums before adding peaches later. I like cornstarch, not flour, in baked fruit desserts, and I prefer the topping crunchier, so I add nuts.
Here's a template for making a stone-fruit tart in three steps -- crust, filling, topping.
The pan. Invest in a 9-inch straight-sided, scallop-edged tart pan with a removable bottom. Any kitchenware shop sells them. I've had mine since the kids were small, and I've used it dozens of times.
The crust. An oil-based crust is stirred together. Pinch off small blobs of that dough and distribute them around the pan, then press down the dough with fingertips to cover the pan. No rolling, no resting, no chilling. And no, the olive oil doesn't give an off flavor. Yes, you can make it ahead. I will make the topping and pastry and line the pan before heading off to a farmers market. Home again, I add whatever fruit I happen to buy.
The fruit filling. You need enough thickly cut-up fruit to fit snugly in the pan. Figure about 4 medium-large peaches cut into slices, about 1/2 inch thick. Don't bother peeling them. The skins add fiber, texture and a rosy hue to the tart. Arrange the fruit right on the surface of the pastry. Make a pattern or not, placing the slices around the edge first, then working towards the center. Don't be fussy because the pattern won't be seen. Another day, cut apricots or prune plums in half and sort of lean them sideways against each other. Funny thing about both of them: Raw, apricots and prune plums are bland tasting. But whoa, bake or poach them, and they turn tart and delicious.
The topping. Sugar is mixed with soft butter and a bit of salt. I add sliced almonds. (I found sliced honey-roasted almonds at Trader Joe's once, the kind on Pittsburgh's famous Burnt Almond Torte, and they were terrific. If I ever see them again, I'll buy a case.) If you are out of almonds, try chopped pecans. Some of the topping sinks into the fruit and thickens it. Some of the topping stays in crispy patches on the surface.
The garnish. Vanilla ice cream is the best foil for this tart tart. Sweetened whipped cream runs a close second.
And there it is. "Easy as tarts."
Peach Tart with Toasted Almonds
This recipe can be used as a formula for making other stone-fruit tarts, such as plum or apricot. The unbaked tart will rest on a baking sheet for stability while baking.
For the crust
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup mild-flavored olive oil
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
For the filling and topping
About 4 ripe peaches, unpeeled, pitted and thickly sliced (about 1/2-inch wide)
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into dice
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. In a small bowl, stir together the oils, milk and flavoring. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients, using a rubber spatula to rub the ingredients together. Don't overwork the dough.
Place the tart pan on a baking sheet for stability. Pinch off pieces of dough and distribute them evenly around the pan. Starting at the outside, press the dough up the side of the pan using your finger tips to make an even edge up to the rim. Pat the rest of the dough flat.
Starting on the outside, overlap the peach slices in a concentric circle over the pastry, working your way to the inside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the sugar mixture evenly. Add the sliced almonds.
Pinch or spoon the topping over the fruit, using it all. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the crust is medium brown and the filling is thick and bubbling.
Remove to a rack. When the tart is cool, remove the outer ring of the tart pan. Here's how: Using the tip of a sharp knife, gently poke at the crust on the scalloped sides to loosen any bits that are stuck with baked juices. Balance the tart on a coffee can (or other wide can such as Crisco) and let the ring fall away; place the tart on a serving platter. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream. Makes a 9-inch tart.
-- Adapted from Food52.com
Marlene Parrish can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-481-1620.