Years ago, I learned a wonderfully simple method for making a rustic freeform fruit tarts modeled after French galettes, whose charm lies in their rustic imperfection. The recipe involves little more than rolling flaky pie dough into a rough free-form round, piling cut-and-sugared fruits into the middle, and folding the dough up around it. It is the quickest method I know of creating a delectable fresh fruit pastry – about 20 minutes once you make the dough – akin to a pie but without the bother. Made with lush summer fruits like apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums and berries, it is the perfect summer house dessert.
You can use your own homemade dough, or a prepared pie dough that is sturdy enough to roll and handle. I make this tart so often that I divide big batches of dough into well-wrapped disks to keep in the freezer for when I am pinched for time.
You can make variations of this tart throughout the year with whatever fruit is in season. The only variables are how the fruit is cut and the amount of sugar it needs to reveal its full flavor.You can improvise endless combinations of fruits and flavorings, from vanilla to nutmeg to thyme to kirschwasser, though simply tossing the fruit with lemon and sugar is enough to make a gorgeous tart.
Recipe: Improvisational Freeform Fruit Tart
This “master recipe” gives the essentials you need to know to improvise with just about any fresh fruit. You can combine two or three fruits and/or add additional flavorings such as 1/2 vanilla bean split, seeds scraped out and mixed with the sugar or 1 to 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract…½ to 3/4 teaspoon ground spices such as cinnamon or clove, or a few scrapings nutmeg…1 to 2 teaspoons eau de vie such as framboise, poire William or kirsch…1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or rosemary and/or a pinch of lavender flowers…
1/2 pound Flaky Butter Pastry (see recipe below) or your favorite flaky pastry dough
2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons flour for thickening the juices, plus extra for rolling the dough
1 tablespoon sugar
3 cups ripe fruit (peeled, pitted, and cut into ¼-inch thick slices as appropriate) such as pears, plums, peaches, apricots, bananas, berries, cherries or rhubarb, in any combination
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (2 tablespoons for apples)
¼ to 1/2 cup sugar (depending on the sweetness of the fruit)
2 to 3 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons confectioner’s sugar
Preheat the oven to 400′. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rough circle about 14-to-15-inches in diameter. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet and refrigerate it while you prepare the fruit.
In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon sugar with 2 tablespoons flour (2 ½ tablespoons for very juicey fruit, such as berries, rhubarb, and cherries); reserve.
For the Filling: place the fruit in a bowl and toss it with sugar, lemon juice and any flavorings you like. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and sprinkle the reserved flour-sugar mixture evenly over it, leaving a 2-inch border uncovered. Arrange the fruit evenly over the flour-sugar mixture. Gently fold the rim of dough over the fruit, creating overlapping creases as you go. Moisten your fingers lightly with water and gently press the creases together so that they hold their shape. Shave the butter over the fruit.
Bake the tart until the crust is golden brown, the fruit is tender and the juices syrupy, about 40 minutes, covering the tart half way through if the crust is browning too rapidly. Let cool 10 minutes before sliding the tart onto a serving platter.
Just before serving, strain the confectioners’ sugar evenly over the crust.
Flaky Butter Pastry
This is a great dough for people who are intimidated by pie crusts. It is virtually foolproof, easy to make and handle, yielding a buttery pastry that is tender yet sturdy enough to accommodate the abundant fruit.
The recipe can be doubled or tripled and can be frozen well wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 1 month. To defrost, thaw in the refrigerator several hours before using.
Makes 8 ounces dough, enough for one tart
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
4 1/2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ bits
3 tablespoons sour cream
In a medium bowl combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add the butter and cut it into the flour with a pastry cutter or use a pinching motion with your fingers until it makes a very coarse meal. (If you have time, chill this mixture in the refrigerator 15 minutes). Add the sour cream and blend with a fork to combine, then, using your hands, squeeze the dough 7 or 8 times to incorporate. To make the dough in a food processor, process the dry ingredients to combine. Add the butter and process to a coarse meal; chill if time. Then add the sour cream and process until the mixture looks like sand.
Flatten the dough into a 1-inch thick disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1/2 hour before rolling.