Fresh Peach and Fennel Tart – Mastering the Art of Baking

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As I have mentioned before, my time in the kitchen is pretty limited (and more limited than I would like). I try to make the most of the time that I have by making No Knead Bread or preparing pizza dough before work. However, being pressed for time also means I tend to stick to tried-and-tested recipes. Yet, I long to learn new baking skills and become more adventurous in the kitchen. As much as I like baking brownies, muffins and cupcakes, I have made them a dozen of times. Yes, they are quick, easy and tasty, but other than coming up with new flavour combinations or making the most of seasonal ingredients, the thrill of baking these is gone. So yes, I have found myself in a bit of a baking rut lately.

Thanks to watching the Great British Bake-Off I now have new found motivation to step outside of my comfort zone and try and master those recipes I have been staring at for years (Puff Pastry, I am looking at you) and step outside my comfort zone. To help me keep track I have added a new page to the blog with a list of recipes I would like to master in the coming months.

And yes, there is already a tick next to Pastry Cream – come on, I am sure you write things on your to do list you have already done just so that you can definitely tick something off your list, no? As it happens, I spent my Friday night making fennel-infused pastry cream (yes, my fennel obsession is still going strong and I hope it never ends) which I used to make a tarte with fresh peaches.

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The inspiration for this came from two scoops of ice cream I had at Gelupo last weekend. Gelupo is one of the few places in London where you can get authentic Italian Gelato (the other one being Scoop) and is conveniently located close to Piccadilly Circus (right opposite Bocca di Lupo and owned by the same folks). They tend to offer about 10 different ice cream flavours as well as a few sorbets/granitas. They change the flavours pretty frequently so you are never quite sure what you will get on any given day.

A few weeks ago they had white peach ice cream which was easily the best fruit-flavoured ice cream I have ever eaten. Although I am more of a milky ice cream person (pistachio is my favourite ice cream flavour of all times), the white peach was out of this world. Too often fruit-flavoured ice creams are so sugary or creamy they completely mask the flavour of the fruit. But this white peach ice cream was perfection – the balance of fruit vs sugar vs custard was such that the freshness (and a little tang) of the peach was preserved – you literally had the sensation of biting into a fresh peach just in ice cream form.

It was no wonder then that Ale and I wanted to return to Gelupo as soon as possible before the end of the summer in the hope of getting our hands on some more scoops of white peach. I had also heard that Gelupo did a mean fennel ice cream which I was keen to try. When we got there, I was overjoyed as they were offering both a fennel (and pine nut) and a peach flavour (although no white peach) ice cream that day. Although I did not care much for the pine nuts in the fennel ice cream (they added nothing in flavour and the texture distracted from the fennel flavour) the fennel worked brilliantly in the ice cream.

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Until I started experimenting with fennel in sweets, I had only come across fennel as an ingredient in savoury dishes, typically used to bring out the flavours of other ingredients (such as in Tuscan pork sausages, as an ingredient in fresh summer salads or served together with fish). It was not until my meal at the Bottle Apostle that I realized how well fennel stands on its own, how well it works in sweet dishes and how well it works with dairy – there is something about the sweetness of fennel that pairs exceptionally well with and brings out the sweetness of milk and cream.

The combination of fennel and peach in the ice cream at Gelupo was a revelation. It had not occurred to me before to pair fennel with fruit but once I tasted Gelupo’s ice cream my mind started racing – to a fennel and peach fruit tarte, to a fennel-infused Poire Helene and to a fennel and cherry brownie.

The inspiration to go ahead with my idea of a fruit tarte came when I was watching the Great British Bake-Off with my flatmate Millen the other day. In episode 3, the contestants had to make their version of a Tarte Tatin as well as a show-stopper fruit tarte. The contestants’ ideas of using lavender and Chinese five spice mix for their Tartes Tatin as well as their struggles with the fruit tartes were all the motivation I needed – I haven’t made a tarte in years (in my family tarte-making is firmly my dad’s responsibility), I have been meaning to work with pastry cream for a while and I have all of these little tarte pans (fluted, unfluted, different diameters) sitting at the back of my cupboard and that don’t get to see much sunlight.

Fresh Peach and Fennel Tarte
Tarte recipe and pastry cream recipe adapted from Peyton and Byrne

Ingredients

For the tartes (makes enough dough for 8 small fruit tartes)
220g spelt flour (the original recipe called for plain flour but I like the nutty aroma and silken feel of spelt flour)
110g butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
55g sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp ice cold water

For the Pastry Cream (makes ca. 300ml, enough for 8 small tartes)

225ml whole milk
Pinch of sea salt
5.5 tsps cornflour
55g caster sugar
1 egg
25g unsalted butter

Additional ingredients required
4 fresh peaches, thinly sliced (easiest if you have a mandolin, otherwise a very sharp knife will do the trick)
Warmed and strained apricot jam, for glazing

Directions

For the pastry cream

1. Start by combining the sugar with the corn flour.

2. Next, whisk in the egg.

3. Combine the milk with the fennel and the pinch of salt in a saucepan and place the sauce pan on the stove on a medium flame. Bring the milk just under a boil.

4. Once the milk starts frothing and steaming, pour about 1/3 of the milk mix into the egg-sugar-corn flour mix. Combine thoroughly before pouring the eggy milk back into the saucepan with the fennel-infused milk.

5. Whisking constantly heat the mix until thickened. This should only take a few minutes.

6. Strain the cream into a separate bowl and let cool for ca. 10 minutes (stirring once in a while) before adding the butter cubs. Quickly stir to combine (without overworking the pastry cream or it will thin out).

7. Cover the pastry cream with a piece of cling film pressed directly onto the surface of the cream (to prevent a skin forming on the cream) and place in the fridge until needed.

For the tarte dough

8. Combine the flour with the sugar in a bowl and form a well in the middle. Add the egg yolk and the cubed butter.

9. Using a knife or a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until the butter pieces are about the size of peas or smaller. Next, use your hands to quickly form a dough ball with the help of the ice water. Be careful not to overwork the dough or it will not be as crisp and crumbly once baked.

10. Flatten your dough ball into a disk, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

11. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees.

12. Roll out the dough to ca. 1/4 inch thickness and line your tarte pans. Cover with greaseproof paper and baking beans. Bake tartes for ca. 25 minutes until the dough is golden.

13. Let tartes cool for at least 10 minutes before removing them from the tarte pans.
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Assembly

11. Once the tartes have cooled completely, spread the pastry cream over the base of each tarte.

12. Neatly arrange fresh peach slices on top.

13. Brush peach slices with the strained and warm jam.

Note: the pastry cream will stay fresh for about 4-5 days if placed in the fridge so can easily made ahead a few days in advance. Also, it only took about 15 minutes to prepare the pastry cream so this is something that can easily be prepared on a weekday before or after work in time for preparing a fruit tarte on the following weekend.

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And if you have some extra dough, you can always turn this into little jam tarts. Just spread a jam of your choice onto your dough (no need for blind-baking) and decorate with the remaining scraps of dough. Bake for ca. 25 minutes.

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5 thoughts on “Fresh Peach and Fennel Tart – Mastering the Art of Baking

    • Thank you Ins! I am trying to work on my pictures. And I so know what you mean about being too lazy for certain recipes at certain times – sometimes I see a recipe and even though it looks mouthwateringly delicious I cannot fathom the energy to plough through the different steps required to get to the end result! All the best, Sophia

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    • Thank you! They tasted lovely, both the jam ones and the fennel pastry cream ones. Let me know if you try any of the recipes. Will have to hop over and have a look at your blog as well!

      Like

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