Sometimes you don’t want birthday cake, but you need birthday pie—or in this case, birthday tart.
This might be true anytime of year, but when Lou’s summer birthday rolls around it’s a good excuse for dinner outside. Even though I love cake (yes, I have walked/driven/biked/public-transit-ed maybe too many miles for love of baked goods…one example via whoopie pies: http://blog.williams-sonoma.com/adventures-in-whoopie-pies/), it’s rare that I can bring myself to bake anything that isn’t completely full of fruit from June to September. I want as many blueberries, blackberries, cherries, plums, raspberries, apricots, peaches, nectarines, as I can manage all summer long and will go just as far for the perfect fruit as I will for the usual baked good pilgrimage.
The best way to get a whole lot of fruit in one delicious piece of pastry? Pies and tarts. All I want to do is make one after another all summer, which doesn’t exactly match with the other thing I want to do all summer (being outside all day, everyday), but in the end, eating a slice in our backyard mid-afternoon, as the sun sets, or…who am I kidding…absolutely anytime at all, is worth a little time inside.
A big part of our birthday celebrations is always a home-cooked dinner (with as many friends as are around), complete with dessert, and every birthday, it’s something different. We’re going to be sharing the recipes, but we’re going to start with the dessert because…well, it’s self-explanatory. This tart is one of my favorite things I’ve ever made. I’m always writing and re-writing menus for weeks before I cook, but this year the dessert didn’t change once from menu to menu. I knew I wanted to make something—anything—with cherries, apricots, and pistachios and I have to say, this tart’s a pretty serious win. Not only is it incredibly delicious—the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness, rounded out by the smoothness of pistachios and the buttery crust (that’s not just a vehicle for the filling, but just as tasty)—but it’s also gorgeous. Luckily, though, it smells way too good to make you feel any kind of bad about digging right in.
Summer in a tart shell.
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Serves 12+ (But let’s be honest, you’re going to want leftovers, so…maybe just 10?)
Look, there’s no getting around it. This part of the filling is full of nuts and sugar and butter. That’s just the way it is. BUT, you’re going to be spreading only a very thin layer over the crust and even that little bit makes such a big difference. Don’t skip it. Trust me. It makes the whole tart.
A food processor
1/2 cup pistachios + a handful to sprinkle on top of the tart
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup sugar
4 tbs cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
small pinch of kosher or sea salt
*Process the pistachios, slivered almonds, sugar, and pinch of salt in a food processor until very fine.
*Add butter and process until a paste forms.
*Add vanilla and almond extracts and process again to incorporate.
*Can be made a few days in advance. Just cover and chill and let come to room temperature before use.
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You’re going to want nice, ripe apricots for this or you won’t have much flavor, but they shouldn’t be too mushy or they’ll be watery. To tell if they’re perfect, give them a smell. If they smell delicious, they’ll taste delicious. You’ll see the skin in the tart, so I like to pick out ones that are blushing with a little pink or red.
As for the cherries, I like to use red cherries so you get a nice contrast between the color of the fruits.
If you want a cherry pitter, you’ll need one of those. I just use the two cherry pitters at the end of my arms. (Hint: they’re called hands.)
11 ripe apricots, pits removed, cut in 1/2 inch or so wedges
1 lb cherries, pitted and cut in half
About 1/4 cup sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
*Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and let sit for a few minutes (while you roll out the tart dough will be perfect.)
*Arrange over pistachio-almond paste.
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Pâte Sucrée & The Tart
(Your new favorite incredible, delicious, gorgeous tart crust…)
You’ll want to work quickly, as with any pastry dough, so that your butter doesn’t melt but instead distributes evenly throughout in perfect little pebbles. This dough really is about as beautiful as doughs get.
Also, you’ll have some extra dough. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge for a week or so or freeze it for up to about a month.
A 14-inch tart tin with removable bottom
A food processor
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 tbs sugar
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 large egg yolks- room temperature
1/4 cup ice water
*In the bowl of a food processor, combine your all purpose flour and sugar with a few pulses.
*Add your butter cubes and pulse until just combined. The mixture should be grainy with some small lumps.
*Beat egg yolks and add ice water.
*With the processor running, steadily pour the yolk-ice water mixture through top and stop when mixture is just combined. This should definitely be no more than 30 seconds. When you pinch some of the dough crumbles between your fingers, they should just hold together. You don’t want the dough to be too wet or too dry. Lumps are totally fine.
*Empty food processor bowl onto a large piece of saran wrap and work everything quickly into a ball and flatten into a uniform disc.
*Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days. Any longer than that and you’ll want to freeze the dough, which can be frozen for up to a month.
*Remove the dough from the fridge and let sit for a few minutes.
*Pound dough out a little with your rolling pin, then roll it out into a circle, turning and flipping it and adding some flour after every few rolls so it doesn’t stick. The dough should be about 1/4 inch thick.
*Drape the dough over your tart pan with removable bottom- 12 inch one- and press down lightly, making sure to fit it into the sides and edges.
*Slice off excess at top with a knife.
*Using a rubber or metal spatula, spread pistachio-almond paste evenly over the bottom of the dough. It will be a thin layer. Work it all the way to the edges.
*Top with fruit (I like to do alternating circles of cherries and apricots, with the apricots standing up) and dot top with butter.
*Bake for 10 minutes at 400 and then another 30-35 minutes or until crust is lightly golden and fruit is bubbling. If your crust starts to brown too quickly, cover the edges with strips of foil to prevent burning.
*Top with the rest of your pistachios before serving.
Serve when slightly warm or at room temperature. Amazing with a little ice cream or soft-whipped cream…or just by it’s own lovely self.