High Altitude Baking: Blueberry-peach tart with Palisade peaches (recipe)
September 6, 2016
Editor's note: High altitudes makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
I love late summer in the high country — cool nights, glistening days, empty trails and, perhaps best of all, peaches from Palisade. I look for ways to bake with these beauties as soon as they're available and recently featured them in this simple tart. With a buttery, flaky shell, a crisp, cinnamon-and-oat topping and a soft, lush peach-and-blueberry filling, it celebrates what we love about the season.
Tips for success: Make this dessert with peaches that are flavorful and fully ripe. Unripened ones will remain hard and tasteless when baked and result in a very disappointing tart. Handle the dough for your tart shell as gently and as little as possible; overworking the dough will make it tough.
(Make in a shiny metal 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.)
Your favorite tart shell recipe
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1 egg white, beaten with a fork until frothy
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons rolled oats
2 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut in small pieces
¼ to ½ cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker's
2 to 3 teaspoons cornstarch
2 cups washed, picked over, and stemmed blueberries
2 cups ½-inch chunks of ripe but firm peeled peaches
1 tablespoon creme de cassis or lemon or orange juice
Make and prebake your tart shell according to the directions that accompany your recipe. Remove it from the oven, and while it is still hot, generously brush the entire inside with the frothed egg white (you won't use it all). The heat from the just-baked tart shell will cook the egg white, making a barrier between the tart shell and filling, which will prevent the pastry from getting soggy. Let the tart shell cool completely. (It can be made a day before filling and stored, covered airtight, at room temperature.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position and a cookie sheet on the center rack (to catch drips).
Make the topping: Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl or 4-cup measure, and whisk to combine well. Add the pieces of softened butter, and, with your fingertips, a fork or a pastry blender, rub/mash the butter into the dry ingredients until they're moistened and small clumps form. Refrigerate while making the filling.
Make the filling: Combine the sugar (the amount will depend on the sweetness of the fruit; use the larger amount if your fruit isn't very sweet) and cornstarch (the amount will depend on the juiciness of the peaches; use the larger amount if they're very juicy) in a mixing bowl, and whisk to blend. Add the blueberries and peaches, and gently toss with your hands or a silicone spatula until all are evenly coated with the dry ingredients. Add the juice or creme de cassis, and toss until the fruit is moistened.
Pour the filling into the cooled, prebaked tart shell, distributing it uniformly. Sprinkle the topping over it, squeezing it into clumps. Cover the edges of the tart shell with strips of aluminum foil to prevent it from over-browning. Place the tart on the cookie sheet in the oven, and bake until the fruit is very soft but still holds its shape and the topping crisps (the topping won't darken much in color). This usually takes from 35 to 40 minutes, but the amount of time depends on the ripeness of the fruit, so check earlier.
Remove the tart from the oven, and let it cool. Refrigerate it, covered loosely, for several hours, so the filling can firm up. Cut with a long, thin-bladed, sharp knife, and serve cool or heat slices and serve them with ice cream (it's good both ways; see which you prefer). Store up to two days, covered, in the fridge.
Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbooks "Baking Above It All" and "Cookies in the Clouds" (available at The Bookworm of Edwards), is a chef instructor with Colorado Mountain College's Culinary Institute. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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