I’ve been dreaming of summer lately. Don’t get me wrong, I love the seasons, winter included. I love snow (and I wish we were getting the blizzard that DC is enjoying today, but we didn’t get a single flake). Despite my love of snow, I, like everyone else, get tired of the cold, the dark, the dry indoor air, the wearing of layers and layers to keep warm. That feeling that your core is always twisted into a tight little ball, protecting yourself from the elements. Since I can’t afford to wing myself off to the Caribbean, I do the next best thing: I eat summer. Strawberries, blackberries, sweet corn and peaches.
A peach is so evocative of summer; of juice dripping down your chin while you savor a peach outside, wearing nothing but a tank top, shorts and flip flops. Sigh. For their brief season, everything comes up peaches: peach salsa, peaches over pancakes or on the grill, peach juice in champagne and fuzzy peach martinis. Peaches just say “summer” (even the Stranglers agree).
This is a versatile dessert, that can be thrown together for a weeknight dinner, or dressed up for a party or event. It comes together quickly and can be made well in advance. I made this recipe up on the fly and there are a few things I would do differently the second time around: I would omit the cinnamon from the ricotta filling (it overpowered the more delicate flavors of honey, peach and anise) and opt instead for a dusting on top; I would up the amount of peaches (from a half-pint jar to a full pint) and add a second layer, as the peach flavor got a litte lost against the full-flavored ricotta; and I would try glazing the top with reduced peach syrup rather than adding it into the ricotta, again to increase the peach flavor. These changes aside, the dessert was quite delicious as it was (the last, lonely piece in the fridge is not long for this world, I’m afraid).
Note on the portion: I love my little 7-inch tart pan, because it makes just enough for two people, or four if you are sharing. For a standard 9- to 10-inch tart pan, increase the recipe by 50%.
Sweet Ricotta Tart with Honey-Spiced Peaches
- about 1/2 recipe of Rose’s Deluxe Flaky Pie Crust
- 1/2 lightly beaten egg white
- 8 oz ricotta cheese
- 8 to 16 oz jar of Honey Spiced Peaches, or other canned peaches, with syrup
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp honey
- pinch sea salt
- 1/8 tsp cinnamon (optional)
- 1 tsp turbinado sugar, for garnish
- freshly grated star anise or cinnamon stick, for garnish
- Make, or thaw, the pastry dough (allow freshly made dough to rest for a minimum of 1 hour in the refrigerator prior to rolling). Roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness and shape into a 7-inch tart dish. (See pastry recipe for detailed instructions). Cover rolled pastry dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour and up to 24 hours prior to baking.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (400 degrees F convection). Line the tart shell with parchment paper (or a disposable coffee filter) and fill with pie weights, dried beans or rice to weigh down the pastry. Blind bake the tart shell for 12 -15 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Remove the parchment and weights, prick the bottom crust several times with a fork, then continue to bake for 3 – 5 minutes, until the entire pastry shell is nicely browned. Allow the tart shell to cool for a few minutes, then brush lightly with egg white, which will keep the bottom crust crisp.
- Drain the peaches from their syrup. If the syrup is very light and watery, reduce in a small saucepan until thickened to the consistency of good maple syrup. (My yield from a half-pint jar of peaches in very light syrup was about 1 to 2 tablespoons of thick syrup.) Set aside. (At this point, you can choose to add this syrup to the ricotta filling, or reserve for a glaze over the top of the peaches).
- In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, maple syrup, honey, salt, cinnamon (if using) and peach syrup (if adding) with a fork or electric hand blender. Taste and adjust flavorings as needed. For a creamier texture, add a tablespoon or two of heavy cream or whole milk.
- Spoon the ricotta filling into the cooled tart shell. Smooth with a spatula. Fan slices of peach in a circle across the top of the tart. If you reserved the peach syrup as a glaze, drizzle it over the peaches now. Garnish with a sprinkle of turbinado sugar, if desired, and a dusting of grated star anise or cinnamon stick. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to set the filling. Serve cool or at room temperature.
- My peaches were already flavored with honey and star anise, but many flavors work well with peach. A little almond oil in the ricotta, or shaved almonds as garnish, would be tasty. A tiny bit of chile powder, in the ricotta and as a dusting on the top of the tart, would be an interesting twist.
- The peaches were a little overwhelmed by the ricotta (and the cinnamon). A double layer of peach slices (using 1 pint jar) might be a good way to punch up the peach flavor. Also, glazing with the reduced peach syrup might help the peach to shine.
- If using store-bought ricotta that is quite wet, drain for 30 minutes or so, in a colander lined with cheesecloth, to remove excess moisture.
Refrigerated for up to 3 days. It will keep longer, but the pastry crust will start to get soggy.
Year round, but best in winter when fresh fruit is a distant memory.