Top | American Flavor
Rustic Peach and Cornmeal Tart with Lemon Verbena Cream
(recipe, Andrew Carmellini)
From the time I was eight years old or so, my dad used to take me to dirt-track races out in the Pennsylvania countryside every year. Just outside of Doylestown, there was this roadside stand with a big sign reading PEACHES AND CREAM. That was all they served: cream custard with fresh peaches and syrup. It was the best food we had on the whole trip. That's the inspiration for this tart. I added the lemon verbena because it just goes really well with peaches.
This tart is less intense workwise than making a pie, and a lot more forgiving, since the dough doesn't need to look perfect. The lemon juice in the tart crust helps keep gluten from forming, so the dough is more tender than your average pie crust.
If there's a farmer's market in your neighborhood, you can get your lemon verbena there when it's in season — in New York, that's July and August, which is also fresh peach season. If you can't find fresh verbena, you can always sub out the dried stuff they use for tea. But if you can't find fresh, ripe, beautiful peaches, you should probably make something else for dessert.
For the crust
- 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp. cornmeal
- 1½ Tbsp. granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
- Juice of 1 lemon (2 tablespoons)
- ¼ cup sour cream
For the peaches
- 4 ripe medium-size peaches, pitted, peeled, and sliced thin
- ¼ cup plus 2 T. granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
To finish the tart
- All-purpose flour, for flouring your work surface
- 1 Tbsp. demerara sugar or other coarse sugar
For the lemon verbena cream
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup fresh lemon verbena (leaves, stems, and all), or ¼ cup dried
- 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
- To make the dough: Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and butter in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until the butter is reduced to small pebbles and is coated with the flour and cornmeal. Scoop the dough into a small mixing bowl and let cool down in the fridge, uncovered.
- Pour ¼ cup of water into a small bowl and add 1 ice cube. Squeeze the lemon juice through a strainer into another small mixing bowl (so the seeds don't end up in the pie dough). Add the sour cream and the cold water, and whisk everything together so you have a smooth, milky liquid. Take the dough out of the fridge and pour the sour cream mixture into the bowl. Using a rubber spatula, combine the ingredients, turning and mixing gently for 30 seconds or so until you've got a nice moist dough.
- Use your hands to shape the dough into a ball. Then flatten it into a disk (so that it's pretty close to the shape you'll want to work with — that makes it easier to deal with when it cools and hardens). Wrap the dough up well in plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for an hour or so. (It will hold in the fridge for up to 3 days at this point; you can stash it in the freezer for a month.)
- To make the peach filling: Pile the peach slices in a medium-sized mixing bowl, add all the sugar, and stir so the peaches are coated. Add the flour, mixing everything together well. (If you put the flour in first, it will go all lumpy when it hits the peach juice.)
- To make the tart: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (You don't want to use a tart pan here, because this tart is rustic and free-form.)
- Flour your work surface, then turn the chilled dough out onto it. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a round, turning the dough every few rolls to keep the circumference even. When the dough is too big to turn, turn the direction of the rolling pin instead, working not only straight up and down and across but on diagonals, too. If the dough starts to stick to the surface as you work with it, use a metal spatula to lift it up, and sprinkle more flour underneath. Pinch together any frayed edges as you go. When you're done, the dough should be pretty thin — about ⅛ inch thick and 12 inches or so in diameter (but not so thin you can see through it). Pinch the edges together all the way round, so the outside of the circle is pretty smooth and even. If the dough looks lumpy, roll it out once more.
- Position your parchment-lined baking sheet near your work surface. Then fold an edge of the dough over the rolling pin and roll the dough up, like a window blind, around the rolling pin; lift it onto the baking sheet and unroll it. If pieces break off, pinch them back together. Smooth things out by patting the dough down with your hands. It's OK if the edges of the dough reach up the sides of the baking sheet.
- Use a spoon and your hands and lay the peaches thickly on the tart dough, leaving a good 2 inches bare all around the edge. Then grab the edges and fold them up around the peaches, so that the peaches closest to the sides are covered by the dough and the ones in the center are still exposed. Pinch the dough to repair any breaks, and pull off any excess pieces.
- Sprinkle the coarse sugar generously over the top of the tart — on the dough and the exposed peaches. Put the tart in the oven on the middle rack. Let it bake for about 1 hour, until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown.
- To make the lemon verbena cream: While the tart is in the oven, bring the cream to a boil in a small pot over medium-high heat. Rinse off the lemon verbena and put it in a bowl — stems, leaves, everything. Pour the hot cream over the verbena. Chill the mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes, uncovered, so you get a nice verbena flavor. (Don't let the mix sit in the fridge for longer than that; if you steep fresh herbs for too long, they start to taste grassy.)
- Take the bowl out of the fridge and strain the cream through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl of a stand mixer; throw out the leaves and stems. Add the powdered sugar and, using the whisk attachment, whisk the cream and sugar together until you have soft peaks. (You can do this by hand if you don't have a mixer, but you'll need a really strong wrist.)
- To finish the dish: Let the tart cool to room temperature, and then cut it into individual pieces. (If you cut into it when it's still hot from the oven, it will fall apart.) Top each piece with a big scoop of the verbena cream, and put some more on the side.