This is the 12th attempt at writing this post. In the time between my last post and this one, I have just about dug myself out of an avalanche of uniforms, lunch boxes, traffic nightmares, homework, tantrums and potty training. I also, managed to make a gloriously delicious Peach Tart. Which I then knocked over and it went splat on the ground. There are some weeks, never mind days, when you really don’t know which direction you’re supposed to be going in. I know my reasons for moaning sound incredibly petty, but there you have it. Grin and bear it, is the current motto.
By some miracle of providence, I got photos of the tart before my ample hip decided to knock the board it was on. It managed to flip over onto the baking sheet, rather than the floor tiles which ensured that it was still safe to eat. The pastry was mostly intact even after it’s Cirque du Soleil act, so that’s a testament to the strength of the recipe. I know peaches are generally out of season by now, but they seem to be lining the Doha supermarket shelves still and I am not complaining. If autumn has well and truly grazed your cheeks with a chilled kiss, then by all means, substitute with pears, plums or apple. Consider cinnamon, star anise, orange or lemon zest or coconut for flavour partners. The mood you want for this is as varied as the colours of autumn leaves.
Nigella’s mince pie pastry is the one I used here. It’s a solid, dependable recipe for me and produces an easy going, forgiving pastry. Light, flaky, puffy but able to stand up to the filling, it’s my go to sweet tart pastry recipe. The use of chilled orange juice as the binding liquid keeps the pastry tender, the use of shortening ensures flakiness and the freezing of fats and flour makes all the difference to the consistency, which is so important, particularly in a humid and hot environment like Doha. Now don’t scrunch your nose at the mention of shortening. The one I used was Earth Nature’s natural shortening, which doesn’t contain hydrogenated fats. Granted, that’s not the only reason that makes shortening undesirable, but it does give those incredible flaky layers. You could however, use butter for the entire fat amounts specified. I don’t mind.
Sliced peaches, skin on (seriously, after the week I had, life was definitely far too short to skin a peach) are tossed with some cornflour and sugar and then add spices of your choice. I left it without, simply because I couldn’t be bothered to walk to the pantry and I wanted to add toasted coconut flakes at the end. Use peaches, or indeed any fruit, that’s ripe but firm. If they are well past, they will give out a lot more liquid and you risk having soggy pastry. If that’s all you have, use a slotted spoon to drain out the tossed fruit before placing on your rolled pastry.
I loved how this turned out. More than that I really enjoyed the process. When feeling out of control, I head to the kitchen to create something that demands more of my attention, taking my mind of other important pressing affairs; or so they seem. At that moment, nothing matters, but flaky, tender pastry. And when you see the result of those efforts come out of the oven, puffed and golden, fruit glistening with juice, annoyances that drove you to the stove seem to become manageable away from it.
Until you knock the damn thing over.
Then, you start again.
Until I get my head round that, there is always a time for a peach.
For Nigella’s Pastry recipe, click here.
For the pastry
60g vegetable shortening, such as Trex
60g cold butter
juice of one orange
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of caster sugar
For the filling
2 large peaches, stoned and sliced finely
3 tablespoons caster sugar
2 rounded tablespoons cornflour
optional 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
toasted coconut flake, optional
To make the pastry, measure the flour and add lumps/diced cubes of the fat, in a shallow bowl and shake to cover with the flour. Place in the freezer for twenty minutes.
Mix the orange juice and the salt and place in the fridge.
Prepare your fruit and place in a bowl with the sugar, cornflour and spices if using and mix gently. Set aside
After 20 minutes, pre-heat the oven to 190 deg C. Using a food processor, pulse the fat and flours, until you get a rubble that looks like porridge oats. Add the salted juice pulsing until it looks like the pastry is just about to come together. Or rub the pastry and fats together using the tip of your fingers until you get porridge like flakes. Add the liquid slowly and mix through the pastry gently, but firmly. Whatever method you choose to make the pastry, combine the dough using your hands. Do NOT knead. The less it is handled, the more tender the pastry.
Since this is a rustic approach, I roll the pastry between two sheets of cling film, turning the pastry and lifting the film as needed, until the pastry is around 6mm thick. Place the fruit in slices next to each other and continue till the pastry is filled, leaving a 7 cms border all round. Don’t get too hung up on the math. Just leave enough space to be able to fold the pastry over a wee bit.
Fold the pastry over the fruit, pinching in parts to creating a wave effect, or just fold flat over the peaches.
If you feel the pastry is too soft, place in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up a bit before placing in the oven.
You can, if you like, brush the edges with an egg wash, made with a beaten egg mixed with some milk or water. This will give it a lovely brown sheen.
Place in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until the peaches are soft and the pastry is golden and puffed.
A few minutes before it’s done, you can apply a light brush of warmed, smooth apricot jam over the fruit, to give it a sheen. Place bake in the oven for half a minute and take it out. Sprinkle with toasted coconut flakes, if using.
Leave to cool a bit. This tart is gorgeous served warm, with some velvety creme fraiche or cold, smooth ice cream. I wouldn’t say no to a slice cold either.
It is best on the day it’s made.