When it comes right down to it, stone fruits rock.
The soft, sun-ripened fruits epitomize summer, when children can rinse off sticky fruit juice from their faces and limbs or wherever else the sweet liquid has landed – in their hair, on their bellies, between their toes – by taking a few passes through the sprinkler.
Stone fruit season peaks in July and August, when Spokane’s average temperature is at its highest. The bounty includes plums, peaches, apricots, cherries, nectarines and other fleshy fruits – including hybrids – that grow around a hard pit, or stone, instead of numerous seeds.
One of my favorite ways to spotlight stone fruits is to arrange slices on free-formed and opened-faced galettes. (The rustic and versatile French tarts were the subject of a Food section story in February.)
Midsummer is the perfect time to emphasize a couple of favorite stone fruit toppings: fuzzy peaches and their (hairless) siblings. Nectarines, which – as Deb Perelman writes on her Smitten Kitchen blog – sometimes seem to “unfairly play second fiddle to peaches,” have a lighter, brighter, almost lemony, flavor. Peaches, known for their velvety-soft exterior, offer a more delicate, musky sort of sweetness.
Slivers – or heartier chunks – of both look gorgeous arranged on a bed of pastry crust, ready to be served as a summertime breakfast, dessert or snack.
From Smitten Kitchen, adapted, “loosely,” from Alice Waters’ Apricot Tart
Alice Waters, chef and owner of the famed Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California, uses crushed amaretti cookies in addition to a base of ground almonds. The Smitten Kitchen swapped the traditional Italian almond macaroons with extra ground almonds; I think a layer of almond paste might also be good.
I just used ground almonds, but added extra – about twice as much – and doctored them up with pinches of ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. I also added those spices – along with some ground almonds and rum – to the crust. And, instead of brushing the dough with melted butter, I placed small cubes on top of the nectarines before placing the galette in the oven.
I eyeballed those additional ingredients (I like to think of recipes as sort of suggestions or guidelines rather than hard-and-fast rules) so if you aren’t feeling super adventurous, follow Smitten Kitchen’s recipe below.
For a twist, I also tried a peach-and-raspberry combination. I doubled the dough recipe, making enough for two galettes. In addition to the nectarine version described above, I made another using three large peaches and a layer of raspberry jam – about 2 tablespoons – between the pastry and slices of stone fruit.
Both were sweet and delicious and tasted like high summer.
For the crust:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons ( 3/4 stick or 3 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons ice water
For the filling:
1 tablespoon ground almonds
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon amaretti, pulverized, or 1 extra tablespoon ground almonds plus an extra teaspoon sugar
For the filling:
1 1/2 pounds ripe nectarines (about 4 large)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)
Peach or nectarine jam (optional)
For the crust: Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large, wide mixing bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives, mixing until the dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Dribble four tablespoons ice water over the mixture, using a rubber spatula to pull the mixture together. Gather the dough into a mound (either in the bowl or on a counter) and gently knead it together, for just a few seconds. If it’s not coming together, add ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until it does. Wrap dough in a flat disc in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
When you are ready to roll out the dough, take one disk and let it soften slightly so that it is malleable but still cold. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the disk into a 14-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before using.
For the galette: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a pizza stone, if you have one, on a lower rack. Toss the ground almonds, flour, one tablespoon of the sugar, and pulverized amaretti (or mix of extra ground almonds and sugar) together.
Remove the chilled, rolled dough and sprinkle the almond mixture evenly over the pastry, leaving a 1 1/2 - to 2-inch border uncoated. Cut nectarines in half, removing pits, then each half into thirds (you’ll get six wedges per nectarine – I sliced mine thinner). Arrange the fruit, skin-side-down, in concentric circles on the dough, making a single layer of snugly touching pieces, leaving the border bare. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the sugar evenly over the fruit.
While rotating the tart, fold the border of exposed dough up and over itself at regular intervals, crimping and pushing it up against the fruit. Pinch or trim off any excess dough. (Make sure there are no breaks that will let juices leak.) Brush the border with melted butter, and sprinkle it with two tablespoons sugar.
Bake in the lower third of the oven (preferably on a pizza stone) for about 45 to 50 minutes, until the crust is well browned and its edges are slightly caramelized. If you wish, sprinkle sliced almonds over the galette 15 minutes before the baking time ends, so they get toasty and extra crisp. As soon as the galette is out of the oven, use a large metal spatula to slide it onto a cooling rack, to keep it from getting soggy. Let cool for 20 minutes. If you want to glaze the tart, brush the fruit lightly with a little warmed peach (or nectarine, if you have it) jam. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream or with plain yogurt.
Make ahead: This galette keeps at room temperature for at least two days, and even longer in the fridge. The unbaked dough, wrapped in plastic, will keep in the freezer for a few weeks, the fridge for a day or more. Rolled-out dough may be frozen and used the next day.