I love that this tart looks like a flying saucer ready to descend on the Financial District below. Someone was actually holding this tart up for me to photograph it, but it's as if it's suspended there by the Power of Pastry, because no arm can be seen.
This year has been exceedingly packed with work and joyful events and a few trips, and as the fall settled in and got comfortable I got antsy to make the most of the rest of the year, and focus more on my own work. I was beginning to feel like the summer had whizzed by me, and with it the year, because doesn't everything from here feel like a slippery downhill?
Then I sat down to look through pictures from this summer, and time began to slow down. I think I understand what Shauna meant when she professed her love of escaping with photography to a "place without words." Those places are good for all of us to have. Even though I now look at my photos with a much more critical eye and see all the room for improvement after going to Blogher Food, I am also just happy to have captured moments over the summer I might have otherwise forgotten.
I will never forget when, after I had mourned missing sour cherry season, my friends stopped by one Sunday afternoon with a giant armful of sour cherries they had picked from a neglected tree, just so I could make pie. I am only sorry now that they didn't get to eat said pie. Thanks to Jennie Schacht, whose Deep-Dish Sour Cherry Pie had knocked me out at the Omnivore Books Pie Contest last year, I knew exactly which recipe to try. Always a lover of stone fruit (anything with a pit and soft flesh, including apricots, cherries, plums, nectarines, peaches and even avocado), I really savored baking this summer from her cookbook Farmers' Market Desserts.
But let me back up a bit. In a few frenzied, but thrilling, winter weeks in 2009, I tested a passel of recipes for Jennie in the final stages of manuscript development for Farmers' Market Desserts. I fell in love with the creative, but not too creative or fussy, uses of seasonal fruit.
Roasting pears with crushed amaretti in the cores, pulverizing prunes into a flourless torte batter, stewing figs for the filling to a homemade fig newton...well, one thing was clear. If the dead-of-winter results were this good, I could barely wait for the book to come out so I could use it all year long as the seasons and fruit at the market changes.
I will be sharing more recipes from Farmers Market Desserts on this site that you can make with seasonal fruit, including the SO-WORTH-IT Baked Apple Dumplings with Cinnamon Caramel, but if there is one reason to get this book, it's this almond cornmeal tart crust from the almond aprium tart which graces the cover. Truth be told, I never saw apriums (a cross between apricots and plums) at the market, but every single stone fruit I saw went into this tart this summer, and I made it over and over. The crust is made with almond meal and cornmeal as well as all-purpose flour, and they combine to create a deeply flavorful crust with a crunch that has the added benefit as not being nearly as fragile as other tart shells, so it's easy to serve a beautiful slice.
There is about twice as much almond meal (aka almond flour) as cornmeal, but I imagine you could play with the proportions and substitute other flours and nut meals. Just don't leave out the cornmeal or I will be upset.
Full disclosure: I love corn or anything with cornmeal, up to and including corn (never flour) tortillas, sopes, Colombian-style empanadas, tamales, and polenta.
Frangipane filling is simple (ground almonds, sugar, eggs, and butter) but is a wonderful backdrop for so many different fruit flavors. Peach and almond is classic, and all the stone fruits went well with this filling, but since it's fall now (aka pome fruit season), layer it with slices of fig, pear, apple and quince. Jennie does a great job in the beginning of each chapter of explaining the different fruit (the chapters are divided by type - Stone Fruit, Berries, Citrus, etc.) so even if you aren't familiar with quince, you will know to go by color when picking them (green = unripe, deep yellow = ripe). That's new to me, and I am excited to cook with quince.
This tart had two different nectarines, one yellow peach, and two different types of plums. So much fruit crowded up the counter, I just used whatever was ready to go. I go a little overboard with fruit at the farmers' market. I think one reason we might be so obsessed with summer fruit in the San Francisco area is that the changing produce keeps us in touch with the seasons happening outside our (at times painfully) mild climatic bubble.
That's not a bad deal. We can bring summer to us. Hopefully in about 6 weeks, when it's really cold*, I can just look at these photos and bring summer to me again.
*Cold for us....which means just at/below freezing overnight, but in a house without central heat!