If there’s one thing I love about summer in Texas, it’s peaches. Although my mom and I used to make a trip to Frederiksburg to enjoy the first crop, the best I can do these days is stop by one of the little road-side stands a few minutes from my house. Even at the stands, buying peaches from a real person is surprisingly satisfying.
The sunset-colored fruit are displayed in little wicker baskets on an old card table. It’s dusty on the side of the road. And hot. I pick up one peach, gently. It feels warm and soft in my hand. “I’ll take these,” I say to the young woman behind the table, handing her a $10 bill. She smiles as she reaches into her zippered pouch to retrieve my change. It feels right to purchase peaches this way. Person to person. Hand to hand.
For me, cooking is satisfying in the same way. This Rustic Fruit Tart (recipe below) is a perfect example. If you decide to make it, you’ll get to actually feel something … something other than paper, metal, or plastic. The fuzzy skin of a peach. The slick, juicy pulp. The rough seed with a jagged tip. Then cool, feathery flour. Sugar and salt, like sand. Dough that is sticky and lumpy at first, and then smooth, almost silky soft.
It’s easy, I suppose, to go through the day without feeling much of anything, whether textural or emotional. It’s more efficient that way, for sure. But as I’ve learned from this first crop of summer peaches, if we do take time to pull over to the side of the road, to stand in the dust and the heat from the sun, to touch and smell and feel whatever comes our way, then life tends to taste a whole lot sweeter.
Rustic Fruit Tart
3-4 medium peaches, peeled and sliced (or 2 medium peaches and 1 cup blueberries)
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cups granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into 8 slices
¼ cup milk
For Egg Wash
1 large egg
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar-in-the-raw
Whipped cream; vanilla ice cream; fresh mint leaves
Place fruit and ¼ cup sugar in a medium bowl. Toss to coat the fruit with sugar.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor; pulse to combine.
Add butter; pulse again until the mixture resembles cornmeal.
Add milk; pulse again until the mixture clumps together.
Scrape sides of bowl and pulse again.
Dump dough onto a work surface, dusted with flour.
Work the dough with your hands—gently pressing it away from you with the heel of your hand, then folding it back toward yourself and repeating—until the dough comes together and is pliable. (It should have a texture similar to play-dough.) Shape the dough into a round disc.
Dust your work surface and the top of the disc with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a round that is about 12 inches in diameter.
If juice has collected in the bottom of the fruit bowl, strain the fruit and discard the juice.
Place the sugared-fruit in the center of the round of dough.
Using your fingers, fold the edges of the dough over some of the fruit to create a rim about 2 to 3 inches wide. Work your way around, folding the dough under in a pleat as you go, until the entire round of dough is folded up against the fruit.
To make the egg wash, whisk together egg and water in a small bowl. Using a pastry brush (or your fingers!), coat the dough with a thin layer of the egg wash (you won’t use it all). The purpose of the egg wash is to give the dough a nice golden color. Sprinkle sugar-in-the-raw over the dough and fruit.
Bake the tart about 45 minutes, or until the pleats of the dough are golden brown. It’s okay if the finished tart isn’t perfectly round, the pleats aren’t exactly even, or fruit juice leaks onto the baking sheet. (Remember, this is a rustic fruit tart.)
Let the tart cool for about 15 minutes. Slice the tart into 6 or 8 wedges with a sharp knife. Transfer each wedge to individual dessert plates. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream, and fresh mint leaves, if desired.
Make-Ahead Tip: You can make the dough up to four days ahead; wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. If you freeze the dough, you can make it up to one month in advance.
- For additional flavor, add ½ teaspoon of almond or vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon orange or lemon zest, or a pinch of cinnamon to the fruit mixture before baking.
- For additional texture and a nutty flavor, add ½ cup chopped pecans or sliced almonds to the fruit mixture before baking.
- For a more colorful tart, use two or more fruits for the filling. Peaches and blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, or plums and cherries would all be good pairs.