Monday, September 29, 2014

Rustic Nectarine Tart

I am not gonna lie, the sheer thought of working pastry dough makes me soil my pants. Ensuring the right temperature of butter and water; the process of cutting pastry (I've tried the processor option - it was a royal bitch to clean); chilling the dough - and, finally clearing space in a tiny kitchen to roll out the dough - regardless of what they say, making pastry registers as rocket science and it intimates the hell out of me.

I had once made a pastry crust from scratch for an old-fashioned apple pie one distant Christmas. It totally rocked our Christmas stockings (forgive the gag) off. Was it worth the effort? Maybe. Will I make it again? Perhaps. But only for very special occasions.

And thus I turn to store-bought puff pastry. Though hardly the same thing, for years I have always gawked at these rolls of wonder at the frozen sections at supermarkets. They are expensive imports, no less daunting, but at least they save labor, time, and effort should all else fail. More importantly, puff pastry is an easy step into the world of pastry.

So when I came across a roll of puff pastry (unfrozen) priced at 0,99 Euro at an Italian grocery, I had no excuse but to finally face my fear head-on. Back at home, my crate of fragrant, late-summer nectarines were ripening all at once, beckoning to be briskly turned into a dessert.
Nectarine Tart, thou shalt be.

There were many personal firsts in making this tart - my first time handling puff pastry; first time slicing stone fruits - as basic as that may sound. I had every reason to be nervous. What if the pastry doesn't puff properly? What if the center becomes a soggy mush? I pored over a ton of recipes, and reminded myself that trial and error makes perfect.

Below includes some extra steps that I believe ensures to properly cook the pastry while keeping it from getting soggy in the center. Please do share with me your kitchen tips on this! No jam or preserves in this recipe (I do not like the taste of jammy tarts) - just the pure freshness of summer fruits, ever so slightly accented by honey and lemon.

To prepare... (the tart pictured above uses half of the below portion)
1 puff pastry sheet
4-5 ripe but firm nectarines, halved, pitted, and sliced 1/4 inch thick*
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
lemon zest of one lemon
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 handful of blueberries (optional)

*Nectarine tips: After running the knife along the pit in full circle, gently twist the two sides in opposite direction until they separate. I learned the hard way...

1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Place baking sheet in oven to heat up.

2. Place pastry on parchment paper. Roll edge of pastry inwards to create a half inch border. Using a fork, prick dough inside the border every 1/2 inch then brush with egg wash. Transfer puff pastry onto baking sheet and bake until puffed and golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Toss nectarine, honey, lemon zest and lemon juice in a bowl. Retrieve puff pastry from oven. With a fork, press the dough center to make level. Arrange nectarine in neat rows on top. Too lazy? Simply pour and spread evenly.
Optional: sprinkle raw sugar on border.

4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown. Five minutes before done, sprinkle on optional blueberries. Serve with premium vanilla ice-cream or creme fraiche and forget the rest!

Indulging in a little fruity porn: my perfectly imperfect rustic nectarine tart!
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