Monday, August 17, 2015
It is hot here. 107 degrees hot. Forest fire season is underway and on weekend afternoons we hide inside with shades drawn, our books and music to keep us company. (I have also been re-watching episodes of The Mindy Project. I love the witty writing and, when the new season is out, it may finally convert me to a Hulu user.)
Every year it is like this- while the rest of America is seemingly marching towards back-to-school season and hints of fall, in Southern California temperatures are at their hottest and I have months to go before anything corduroy is appropriate.
You would think after enduring 15 plus years of blazing Augusts that I would be used to this, that it would be part of my new rhythm of seasons, but it isn't. Good thing I handle it with such grace, yes? :) (Here and here you can find my past years seasonal complaint.)
There are still plenty of things to love about life in Southern California. In February, when everyone else is lamenting the slump of winter and onslaught of yet more sleet, I may very well be walking the dogs in the morning without a jacket and ending the day with glasses of rose on the patio. (Apparently, this documented LA winter behavior on instagram has contributed to a recent migration of folks from Brooklyn to Downtown LA. Read about it here.)
Meanwhile, back in August, we started Sunday off with a morning stand up paddle board class at our local water reservoir. My friend was our gracious and gifted instructor and it was crazy fun. I am pretty much terrible at it but it was so beautiful and quiet out on the water. I was thrilled that I was actually able to get myself into stand-up position, less thrilled (but not surprised) that paddling myself in a straight path seemed like an impossibility.
With this adventure behind us, we came home to read and nap and, in lieu of dinner, I baked a peach crostada. The peaches I had were just one day over being ripe and in need of being used up. The crostada turned out perfectly: flaky crust, tart sweet peaches, and a rubble of nutmeg scented buttery topping. To me, a crostada is more simple than a pie- the fruit is minimally dressed. Unlike pie that is perfectly wonderful the next day, this crostada is best eaten same day and even better, while still warm. Therefore, we felt it was our responsibility to polish the whole thing off.
This is based on Ina Garten's recipe for apple crostada. I started making this a few summers back with peaches and so that is how I present the recipe below. In Ina's recipe, the crumble topping for apples includes cinnamon and allspice but when I make this with peaches, I only use a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg.
For the pastry (makes 2 tarts- use one now, freeze one for later)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound very cold unsalted butter, medium diced.
1/4 cup ice water
For the filling (1 tart)
1 1/2 pounds ripe peaches (about 5-6)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
Make the pastry:
1) In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt.
2) Using a pastry cutter (or two butter knives) cut the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is coated with the flour and about the size of peas.
3) Slowly start to add in the ice water, tossing lightly to incorporate, and you should start to see the dough come together. Be careful not to over mix (it will get tough). I find it is helpful to use my hands to identify that moment when the dough has just enough moisture in it that it will come together in a ball.
4) Divide the ball in half and shape each portion into a round flat disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. You will only need one portion of dough for the crostada. I usually freeze the other for a future dessert date.
Make the crostada:
5) Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
6) On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry into roughly an 11-inch circle. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet and put in the refrigerator while you peel the peaches.
7) I hear there is a method for peeling peaches that involves dipping them in boiling water, then plunging in an ice bath. This is far too fiddly for me. I just go at them with a vegetable peeler. I realize that this means I remove a little more peach with the peel than is ideal (ha!) but it is the method that is most likely to get me in the kitchen and actually cooking. This is my own theory on peach peeling- free free to adopt as your own or judge away.
8) Once the peaches are peeled, cut in half, remove the pit, and cut each half into 4 slices. Set the sliced peaches aside in a bowl.
9) In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and nutmeg. Add in the diced cold butter and, using your fingers, begin to work the butter pieces into the flour mixture until it starts to hold together and crumbles form. Put this small bowl in the fridge for a few minutes to chill the butter and help hold the crumbles together.
10) Remove the baking sheet with the pastry crust from the fridge. Pile the sliced peaches onto the crust, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border. Take the bowl of crumble topping from the fridge and sprinkle it evenly over the peaches. Gently fold the pastry dough border over the peaches, pleating around as you go, to make a circle. This is a rustic free-form pie, so enjoy the general wobbliness of the shape.
11) Bake the crostada for 20 to 25 minutes or until the crust is golden and the peach juices bubbling. Remove the crostada from the oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes- it will be molten hot and needs some time for all the peachy goodness to settle back into the crust.
12) I use a pizza cutter to slice into mine. It can be served plain or with ice cream, creme fraiche, or a puddle of heavy cream. I don't think I would say no to any one of those options. It is up to you whether or not you want to eat dinner first.