Monday, December 17, 2007

Peach, honey and walnut tarts

I made these last night for a family dinner. They were a lovely and very simple dessert: a crisp savoury pastry base filled with sliced peaches and honey. That's it. The quantity makes 6 individual tarts, or you could make 2 big ones if you wanted to. I like the look of the smaller ones.
If I did this again I might think about making them not freeform, but packing the shortcrust base into tiny greased muffin tins and filling them with just one peach cheek each. Make them into a really delicate afternoon tea treat instead of a rustic art. Although both ideas are good.
I made a few changes to the original recipe, so here's my version.

Peach, honey and walnut tarts

For the filling:

  • about 8 small peaches or 6 big ones (yellow peaches are better)
  • splash of milk
  • one third of a cup of good quality honey
  • icing sugar, to dust
  • cream / icecream / creme fraiche, to serve

For the pastry:

  • 130g walnuts
  • 1 and a quarter cups flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 5 tsps caster sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 100g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
  • 1 yolk
  • 1 tbsp water

At some point in advance, poach the peaches quickly in simmering water for about 2-3 minutes, or less if they are really ripe. I did this the day before. Stop them cooking in cold water, then when they are cool, carefully peel off their skins.

Put the walnuts on a tray in a medium oven for about 5-6 minutes. Cool and then blitz them in a food processor. (They have to be super-fine, so if you don't have a processor either swap them for ground almonds or mash them in a mortar and pestle). Add to the processor the flour, salt, cinnamon and sugar. Add the butter cubes and blitz to a fine crumb. (Alternatively, lightly rub the butter in with your fingertips).

Mix together the yolk and water and carefully work this into the walnut mix with a knife, until just combined. Try not to overmix it. Mine was still quite floppy and soft at this point. Form it into a ball, put in a plastic bag and refrigerate for half an hour.

Divide the chilled pastry into 6 and flatten out each piece into a rough 12-15cm circle on a floury surface. I cut strips of baking paper to fit under each tart, and rolled out the pastry on the floury baking paper. This way I could just lift the paper to transfer them to the oven, and they could slide off the paper easily.

Artistically slice the peaches, trying to get two blushing cheeks off each peach and two smaller side slices as well. Arrange the peaches in the centre of each pastry round and gather in the sides to partially cover the fruit. My pastry crumbled and broke as I did this, but I pushed it back together. Try to not have any cracks or holes round the edges, otherwise your honey will run out later.

Brush the exposed pastry edges with milk. Bake in a 200 C oven for 30 minutes or until crisp and browned. Heat the honey to make it runny and spoon over the peaches while still hot. These are good at room temperature, dusted with icing sugar and served with whatever dairy item takes your fancy. I cooked mine about four hours in advance and then lightly reheated them in a 150 C oven for five minutes before serving.

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