The Art of Tarts: Recipes to Make the Most of Your Fruits

 , guardian.co.uk  |  Updated: June 27, 2015 12:01 IST

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The Art of Tarts: Recipes to Make the Most of Your Fruits

A peach and almond tart with a twist of black pepper for piquancy, and the classic pairing of strawberry and vanilla in an extra-crumbly pine-nut tart case. Photograph: Jill Mead for the Guardian

There aren’t many things better than a mouthful of perfectly ripe peach – fuzzy-skinned and fragrant, bruising in your grip – or handfuls of jewel-red strawberries, tugged straight from their trailing stems. When fruit is right, it’s wrong to play around with it. But with summer fruit season in full swing, I find myself (always an overzealous shopper when the fruit’s there and ripe) with a glut piled so high in the fruit bowl that every so often a peach will roll drunkenly out with a thud. At these times, there’s nothing for it but to make fruit tarts,; and put the bruised bounty to good use.

Peach and black pepper frangipane tart

Peach and almond are made for one another, but they can verge on cloying if a third ingredient doesn’t perk them up. Here, it’s black pepper that adds that spark – lending a little heat which, along with the brightness of the orange zest, sets the sweet frangipane and fruit into sharp relief.



Serves 6-8
For the pastry
135g plain flour
75g butter
50g ground almonds
30g caster sugar
A pinch of salt
1 large egg
Mascarpone, to serve




For the filling
75g unsalted butter, softened
50g caster sugar
50g runny honey
1½ tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 orange
100g ground almonds
1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
50g plain flour
1½ tsp coarse black pepper, plus extra for sprinkling
¾ tsp baking powder
A generous pinch of salt
2-3 large peaches, skins left on, cut into slim segments



1 Rub the flour and butter together in a large bowl. Keep working the ingredients using your fingertips until no visible chunks of butter remain. Stir in the ground almonds, caster sugar and salt. Whisk the egg lightly, then add half of it to the flour mixture, cutting it into the dry ingredients. Continue adding until the dough begins to form in clumps. You shouldn’t need more than ¾ of the egg. Once all the flour has been moistened, press the dough into a ball, flatten slightly and wrap in clingfilm. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or so, during which time the dough will become less sticky.



2 Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured work surface until it’s 26-27cm in diameter – big enough to line the base and sides of a 23cm-round tart or flan tin. You can also use a 20cm round loose-bottomed cake tin, if that’s all you have – just bake the filled tart for slightly longer to cook the slightly deeper filling. Line the tin with the pastry, prick all over the base with a fork and place in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes (this’ll reduce the risk of the pastry shrinking as it bakes). Meanwhile, set the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.



3 Beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy, then stir in the honey, vanilla extract, orange zest, ground almonds, egg and egg yolk. Combine the flour, pepper, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl before adding to the almond mixture and folding gently until smooth.



4 Spoon the filling into the chilled pastry case, then arrange the peach slices neatly on top in concentric circles and grind plenty of black pepper on top. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven before reducing the temperature to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and cooking for a further 25 minutes. The pastry should be crisp, the filling slightly risen and springy, and the peaches perfectly tender. Leave the tart to cool to room temperature in its tin. Serve barely warm, with sweetened mascarpone.

Strawberry vanilla custard tarts with pine nut crust

The modest handful of pine nuts in this recipe round out what might otherwise have been an otherwise bland of a plain pastry case, while also making it richer, and crumblier, than ever.



Makes 6
For the pastry
60g pine nuts
150g plain flour
75g unsalted butter
40g caster sugar
30ml milk




For the filling
175ml milk
2 large yolks
50g caster sugar
2½ tsp cornflour
2 tsp vanilla extract
50ml double cream
250g ripe strawberries
2-3 tbsp strawberry jam



1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4, then roast the pine nuts for 7-10 minutes, checking them regularly, until they’ve darkened a shade and are beginning to look oily. Turn the oven off for the moment. Set aside 10g of the toasted nuts in a small bowl – you’ll use these to top the tarts later – and empty the bulk of the kernels into a food processor or coffee grinder. Pulse them until they’re finely ground, slightly greasy and starting to clump together.



2 Put the flour in a large bowl and rub the ground pine nut mix into it with your fingers. Cube the butter and add it to the bowl, rubbing it into the dry ingredients until there are no visible chunks of butter left. Stir in the sugar, then add the milk, cutting it in until a dough forms in small clumps. If it’s too dry to hold together when you squeeze it, add a drop more milk. Gather the dough into a ball, pat it flat and wrap in clingfilm. Place in the fridge to chill for 20 minutes or so.



3 Lightly dust the work surface and roll out the chilled pastry until it’s 3-5mm thick. Cut rounds out using a circular pastry cutter – one big enough to make circles of pastry to line the base and sides of the holes ofa standard muffin/cupcake tin. Gently press the pastry into the tin holes, taking care not to stretch it. Chill the lined tin in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.



4 Once the pastry cases have chilled, trim off any excess and line each with a small square of baking parchment (it can help to scrunch the parchment then smooth it out again before doing this, to help it mould to the contours of the pastry). Fill each parchment-lined tart with baking weights – whether the ceramic sort, or just makeshift ones such as dried chickpeas, rice or barley – and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove the weighted parchment parcels and return to the oven to cook for a further 5 minutes uncovered, then leave to cool.



5 Heat the milk for the custard until scalding. While the milk warms, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla extract together in a mixing bowl. Slowly pour the scalding milk into this yolk mixture, whisking constantly as you go. Decant the mixture back into the pan and set over a low heat. Stir the custard over the heat for 5 minutes or so, until it’s very thick and gloopy. Cover the surface with clingfilm to stop a skin forming, then leave to cool to room temperature. Beat the cooled custard to smooth it before adding the cream and whisking for a minute. The custard should hold soft peaks.



6 Hull and halve the strawberries. Fill each tart case with a generous dollop of the custard, then top with the strawberry pieces – I find four half-strawberries per tart is about the right amount, clustered together into a dome shape. Warm the strawberry jam, strain it and brush a little over each of the tarts to glaze. Chop the remaining toasted pine nuts and sprinkle them over the tarts. Serve straight away.



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