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Flour Girl: The Tart That Got Away

A summer tart made with peaches and plums. (Leigh Lambert -- The Washington Post)

I may be in the minority, but I say it's a crime to do anything with ripe summer fruit other than eat it. As is. Dripping. Over the sink.

However, there are times when Mother Nature abounds and other options must be explored.

Recipe Included

Recently, I picked up luscious yellow plums and peaches from a farm stand on my way back from Charlottesville. I had eaten my fill and was racing the clock to use them up before they started to turn.

I wanted to make a big, messy open-faced tart, like the ones that grace the covers of food magazines this time of year. To me, they signal casual elegance, as if you just whipped it together in the spare moments between starching the table linens and lighting the candelabra.

I went looking for a dough recipe by thumbing through cookbooks of Jamie Oliver; he seemed to match my carefree baking mood. His short crust would have been enough, but on the next page I saw his almond filling. I thought the mess of crust, filling and fruit would be too much for his free-form method of folding over the dough's edges and no structure to hold it in place. So I used a tart ring.

His recipe from "The Naked Chef," makes enough for two 12-inch tarts. I scaled down the recipe to make just one, but I can see the advantages of doubling up and freezing a tart. I made the crust thicker than his recommended 1/8 inch and still had some dough left over, perhaps enough to make a couple of 3-inch mini tarts.

I was not bowled over by the filling; I added a litle almond extract to give it depth. But I think Oliver's sweet crust will be one I use again and again, for all the summer tarts to come.

-- Leigh Lambert

Summer Fruit Tart
Makes one 12-inch tart (16 servings)

Adapted from "The Naked Chef," by Jamie Oliver (Hyperion, 2000).

MAKE AHEAD: The dough and filling can be made and refrigerated a few days in advance. Once assembled the tart can be refrigerated for two days.

For the crust
9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Pinch fine sea salt
2 large egg yolks
Generous 1 3/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons cold low-fat milk

For the filling
7 ounces whole skin-on or blanched almonds
12 tablespoons (1 /12 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon almond extract
5 plums (about 8 ounces), pitted and cut into 1/2-inch slices (may substitute pitted, sliced peaches or berries)

For the crust: Combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt. Add the egg yolks and pulse to combine. Add the flour and pulse until the mixture begins to come together and resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add the milk and pulse until the dough starts to form a ball. Don't overprocess the dough, or the glutens in the flour will be activated and cause the crust to shrink in the oven and be chewy.

Shape the dough into a short, fat sausage. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to a few days.

About an hour before you are ready to bake the crust, have ready a 12-inch tart pan or tart ring.

Unwrap the refrigerated dough and cut it lengthwise into 1/8-inch slivers. (Cut accordingly to make a thicker crust, and adjust for a longer baking time as needed.) Place the slices in and around the bottom and sides of the tart pan, fitting them together closely like a puzzle. Push the pieces together with your fingertips, then tidy up the sides by pushing the dough with your thumb. Use your fingers or a knife to level the top of dough along the rim. Chill the tart shell for 1 hour, either in the refrigerator or the freezer.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the tart shell for 15 minutes. If the dough has been properly chilled you will not need to line it with pie weights to keep it in place. Let cool completely.

For the filling: Place the almonds in the bowl of a food processor and process to a fine powder. Add the butter and sugar; process until light and creamy. Transfer to a mixing bowl, then fold in the egg, egg yolk and almond extract until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the baked tart shell on a baking sheet, then use the chilled filling to fill the tart; if you are using a low-rimmed tart pan, fill to within 1/4 inch of the top edge to leave headspace for the fruit. There may be some filling left over. Arrange the plums in an even layer on the filling. Bake for 1 hour, or until the filling has become firm and golden.

Let cool for about 30 minutes before serving.

NUTRITION | Per serving: 343 calories, 5 g protein, 31 g carbohydrates, 22 g fat, 11 g saturated fat, 92 mg cholesterol, 24 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 17 g sugar

By Leigh Lambert  |  August 6, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Flour Girl , Recipes  | Tags: Flour Girl, Leigh Lambert  
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