I'm not a baker, and I'm not very good with dough. Some of my friends seem to be extremely deft at churning out pie tin after loaf pan of delectable baked goods studded with bright Summery stone-fruit and know exactly what to make; their mother's Plum Tart, their Chewy Choc Apricot bars, their grandmother's Sour Cherry pie (that that family literally go insane for). You get the gist. It seems to be in their blood. It is not, unfortunately, in mine. I usually stare at the plums, nectarines and apricots at the market and think, well they do look good, but now what?
When I found this recipe, I looked at how long it would take to make, and it said 3 hours. 3 hours!? I'm going to spend 3 hours, in this heat, making a tart? I looked at the wall clock and thought, if I started at 11am, I'd be done by 2. Not bad, entirely. Since I'd likely be in the kitchen anyway, during that time, making everyone lunch. In fact, I reasoned, I could be presenting this tart for my good friends who were coming by at 4pm—easily. A labor of love, or an insane afternoon operation, that would render me smeared in buttery shortbread and basil cream and ready to be checked into an asylum?
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS TART: 1) It's not hard, but it will take you three hours, or longer. It took me longer than 3 hours but I'm a bit of a slow poke, and I was sort of watching the Olympics at the same time (which required me taking breaks to yell at the television, occasionally) 2) The pastry is a shortbread, it's sublime and goof-proof. You don't have to guess how much water you'll need to add to the dry ingredients as it gives you exact measurements of butter, (so you can't screw up!) 3) You can make it from what you have in your pantry. The pastry recipe comes from Roy Shvartzapel, pastry chef at Cyrus in Heraldsburg, California, that he learned from famous Macaron-guy Pierre Hermé in Paris) and it uses 2 interesting ingredients: Potato Starch and a boiled egg yolk. I switched out the potato starch (which I didn't have) for regular corn starch, and it worked out just fine. 4) You can use any ripe stone fruit you find. The original recipe called for Apricots, but I used Nectarines. Plums or other stone fruit would work just as well. I think a juicy White Peach tart would be glorious. 5) The basil infused custard cream is so ridiculously delicious that you'll want to make buckets of it. I did add a pinch of salt and a grind of fresh cracked pepper to the mixture when I infused the Basil which in my mind, added depth and tempered out the sweetness. 6) The original recipe said to coat the fruit in Jam. I didn't do this for no other reason that I just simply forgot.
NECTARINE AND BASIL-INFUSED SHORTBREAD TART This recipe is adapted from Food and Wine magazine. The original recipe was for Apricots, go to the website to follow the original recipe.
PASTRY CREAM 1 cup whole milk 5 tablespoons granulated sugar 1/4 cup packed basil leaves with stems 2 large egg yolks 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 grind of freshly cracked pepper
PASTRY 1 large hard-boiled egg yolk 1 stick plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/4 cup potato starch (or corn starch) 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
TOPPING 6 Nectarines, quartered 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1) In a saucepan, combine 3/4 cup of the milk with the sugar and basil; bring to a simmer. Add grind of cracked pepper and a little bit of salt. Remove the milk from the heat and let stand for 20 minutes or more. Remove the basil and squeeze any milk back into the pan; discard the basil.
2) In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 1/4 cup of milk with the yolks and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly whisk the egg yolk mixture into the warm milk; bring to a simmer over moderate heat, whisking constantly until very thick, 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter until melted. Scrape the cream into a bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate until chilled, 2 hours.
3) Preheat the oven to 375°. Butter a nine inch removable bottom tart tin. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the hard-boiled egg yolk with the butter and sugar at medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the flour, potato (or corn) starch and salt and beat at low speed until just combined. Using lightly floured hands, press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the side of the tart pan. Refrigerate the crust for 30 minutes, or until chilled.
4) Bake the crust on a baking sheet (to prevent drips) for about 25 minutes, until golden. Transfer the crust to a rack and let stand until cooled, about 1 hour.
5) Increase the oven temperature to 450°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the nectarine quarters cut side up on the paper and sprinkle all over with the sugar. Roast for about 20 minutes, until the nectarines are tender and lightly browned. (Do not burn!) Let the nectarines stand until completely cooled, about 30 minutes.
6) Unmold the crust and transfer it to a serving plate. Using a small offset spatula, spread the cream evenly in the crust. Arrange the nectarines on the cream, cut sides down. Sprinkle with fresh Basil leaves. Serve at once.
THE RESULTS: How did it taste? Pretty-darn-great! (If I do say so myself) Wow-factor: There is a definite 10+ with presenting a tart like this to your friends. The star: The basil-infused cream custard is definitely the winner here. What I'd do differently, if I did it again: I'd probably make the shortbread crust a little thinner in places next time because for me, a little bit of shortbread goes a long way and I will definitely try coating the assembled nectarines with jam next time, (as the original recipe called for) to see if it makes a difference. I also might try another type of fruit. (White Peaches, maybe, or Black Plums) The drawback? It had to be served immediately. That might pose a problem for the me making it again in the future. Would I make this again? Yes even after 3 + hours of labor, I'd definitely make this tart again. (Maybe I do need to be checked into an asylum?)
(pics + text: Dimity Jones)