All my go-to recipe blogs seem to be featuring peach pies at the moment. Making a real American pie from scratch is definitely a baking challenge I intend to complete this year, but despite the glut of gorgeous produce available it just seems too hot for a classic pie. When I saw this simple tart though, I was inspired. Despite the connotations of the name, there’s something so classy about tarts. I love the way a little OCD in arranging the filling can make a deceptively simple tart look super fancy.
This strawberry tart haunted my dreams, whispering that I would never be able to make something that looked so good. When I finally tackled it, though, arranging the strawberries was the simplest part. It was all the blind-baking and pastry-cream-wrangling that was tricky. I baked it at the in-laws’ place with the help of some young nieces and when it came time to take dessert to the table we were all burning with pride. Regrettably, we devoured it before I could get pictures. I suppose I’ll just have to make another one.
The peach tart – which I made with nectarines – was decidedly less fussy, rather more rustic, than the strawberry show-off. I liked the insouciant folded-over crust, no blind-baking necessary; I loved the simple sweep of ricotta replacing temperamental custard. And when fruit is so plentiful and sweet and fragrant, what more do you really need? Cup Of Jo’s recipe used store-bought pastry but I just can’t do that, so I found a pie-crust recipe on Smitten Kitchen. Happily it called for no processor or other equipment; the pastry blender utensil looks like a worthwhile investment, but I just used my fingers.
Nectarine & Ricotta Tart
- 2 sticks butter (225g/1 cup)
- ½ cup ice water
- 2 ½ cups plain flour
- Tub of ricotta cheese
- 1 tbs sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- Ground cinnamon
- 3 big ripe nectarines, thinly sliced
- Mix flour, sugar and salt with a fork in a large bowl. Add the butter (keep it cold) diced in small cubes. Use a pastry blender or two forks or just your fingers to work the butter into the flour. Give it a few minutes, it’s ok to still have pea-sized chunks of butter – in fact this is what will make your pastry flaky and awesome.
- Add ice water a tablespoon at a time to your buttery flour, and mix with a spatula until it starts to hang together. When it’s coming together, get your hands in there and squish it into a ball. The idea is not to overhandle the dough and to keep it cool – as the butter gets warmer, things get messier. Divide the ball into two blobs, put each blob in a ziplock back or wrap it in plastic, roll it out a little and let it sit in the fridge for a good hour.
- Roll out one ball of chilled dough to a 1/8 inch or ½ cm thickness. You’ll need either a well-floured surface, or roll straight onto parchment paper so you don’t have to stress about dough sticking to your surface. You want a circle just a bit larger than your tart pan. Having the dough on paper makes it easy to flip it into your tart pan – I love my non-stick, removable bottom cheap-ass tin from Ikea. But actually for this tart you could even use a flat baking sheet. Once the pastry’s in the tin I let it chill again while I sliced up the fruit.
- Spread the pastry base with a generous layer of ricotta – ½ to ¾ of a cup. Sprinkle the ricotta with some cinnamon and a little more sugar, then arrange the fruit over the top. The spiral always looks fancy – just start at the outside, work your way around in a circle, then do smaller circles inside that. Fold the edges of the pastry over. Bake at 350 F (180 C) for as long as it takes the pastry to turn golden and crispy, and the fruit to begin to brown. I probably would have let mine cook longer but I needed to get it to a dinner party so I wanted to give it time to cool down. In the end I was impressed by how well the tart kept its shape after an hour in a shoebox on the subway.