Lynda Balslev: Making a stone fruit mess
It’s summer, and I am greedy. The stone fruit is impossible to resist right now. The farmers markets are teeming with peaches, nectarines and plums. I oblige and bring home bags stuffed to the brim, only to return for more the next day. It really isn’t a challenge to slurp through the juicy bounty, but when there is a little too much, the older fruit is quickly transformed into a baked dessert.
Tarte Tatin (an upside-down caramelized tart) is a beautiful way to showcase summer stone fruit. If you follow this column, you know that it’s one of my favorite desserts to make. I am not a patient baker, yet this dessert is unfailingly patient with me, allowing me to, well, make a mess — crumbs, dribbles, jagged edges and all. It doesn’t matter one bit, because this dessert is famously and unflappingly forgiving. Imperfection is OK, and the results are consistently delicious.
In this tarte Tatin recipe, the sweet tang of nectarines and plums melds beautifully with the caramel base, which then becomes the topping. The colorful fruit juices create a vibrant filling and tint the caramel, resulting in a mottled tart with streaks of red and orange. It’s beautiful and messy, just as it should be.
Nectarine and Plum Tarte Tatin
Active time: 50 minutes
Total time: 1 hour and 20 minutes, plus chilling and cooling time
Yield: Serves 8
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces chilled unsalted butter, diced
1/3 cup full-fat sour cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut in 4 pieces, room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
4 large nectarines, quartered and pitted
4 plums, halved and pitted
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 egg, lightly beaten
Prepare the pastry:
Pulse the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor once or twice to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is pea-sized. Add the sour cream and pulse until moist clumps form. Gather the dough in a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Before preparing the filling, remove the pastry from refrigerator and let soften slightly for 10 to 15 minutes. Roll the dough out on parchment paper into a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Slide the parchment and pastry onto a rimless baking tray and refrigerate until ready to use.
Prepare the filling:
Arrange the butter in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet with sloping sides. Evenly sprinkle the 1 cup sugar over the skillet. Heat the skillet over medium heat until the butter melts, the sugar begins to dissolve and the mixture begins to bubble, 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully arrange the nectarines and plums closely together in an alternate fashion, skin-sides down, in a circular pattern in the skillet. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and the lemon zest over the fruit.
While the fruit is cooking, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Continue to cook until a deeply colored syrup forms, turning the skillet once or twice to ensure even cooking, about 25 minutes. (Due to the fruit juices, the syrup will be more red than caramel-colored.) Check for doneness by carefully tasting a little of the syrup — it will be very hot. If it has a caramel flavor, then it’s ready for the oven.
Once the fruit is ready, remove the pastry from the refrigerator. Working quickly, lay the parchment with the pastry over the nectarines and plums and peel away the parchment. (Don’t worry if the pastry breaks or tears in places. You can piece it together once the parchment is discarded.) Trim the pastry as needed and gently press the edges down around the skillet. Cut 3 to 4 slits in the pastry with the tip of a sharp knife and brush with the egg glaze.
Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the pastry is golden-brown and firm when tapped, about 25 minutes.
Remove the tart from the oven. Let it cool on a rack for 1 minute, then run a knife around the edge of the tart to loosen the pastry. Place a large heatproof plate over the skillet. Using oven mitts, hold the skillet and plate together and invert the tart onto the plate. If any bits stick to the pan, use a knife or spatula to remove and add to the tart. Cool the tart for at least 30 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area
Rosh Hashanah is coming up Sept. 25 – 27. Time to start planning the celebration menu.
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