Last night we had our first ever dinner guests in our new apartment, which I felt was a perfect opportunity for more food making and blogging. We had salmon pie with salad (recipe to come), followed by a maple-nectarine marzipan tart. I had an idea of what I wanted to make for dessert, but couldn’t find a recipe for exactly what I had in mind so I ended up taking little bits from here and there and improvising a bit. Roughly, the pastry is from Bill Granger, the almond crisp and idea for maple syrup from Donna Hay, and the marzipan filling from David Lebovitz. I did rather bite off more than I could chew with making two pastry dishes, and trying something that I was basically ad libbing. The problem is, you see, that pastries take a long time to make – not least because you are usually instructed to put dough in the fridge for some time after you have made it before rolling it out. And, I did not want to put a sweet and savoury pie in the oven at the same time lest they soak up each other’s flavours. And on top of all that I managed to cut myself twice and burn myself on the oven twice. Luckily, the food (while late) turned out pretty well, though in the following recipe I am going to make a number of suggestions which you should read over before you start cooking.
One thing to keep in mind – you do not really have to make your own pastry. A store-bought tart shell will work perfectly well, in which case you should just jump to the filling section of the recipe…
Maple-Nectarine Marzipan Tart
(From Bill Granger, Bill’s Sydney Food)
2 cups plain white flour
1/4 cup icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
A pinch of salt
180g (6oz) unsalted butter
The very first thing you should do is take the butter out of the fridge so it softens a little and gets to room temperature – for most pastries you will need to rub butter and flour together, and this is extremely difficult if the butter is too cold and hard. However, be careful as you don’t want it to get so soft it is a bit runny (which is the mistake I made as our kitchen was quite hot and I left the butter out for too long). You will need 85g more room-temperature butter for the almond filling, so you might want to leave that out now as well.
Sift together the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine. Cut the butter into cubes, add it to the dry ingredients, and rub it together between your fingers until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs (see picture below).
Add 2 tablespoons of water and mix in the food processor (or cut together with a knife) until it comes together in a ball. If it is dry, you may need to add a little more water (the original recipe says 3 tablespoons), but I found my pastry was too moist and so rather difficult to work with (though this may also have been due to my butter being too soft). The pastry should be very soft and elastic, but do not try to knead it like dough, because if you over-work pastry it doesn’t turn out well. Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Remove the pastry from the fridge and preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade (350 degrees fahrenheit). On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out until it is about 3mm (1/4 inch) thick. When you are rolling, make sure to lightly dust the rolling pin with flour so the dough does not stick to it. Lift up and gently press into a 23cm (9 inch) tart tin and cut off the loose edges. (If you put the tin over the rolled out pastry you can use this to make sure that it is the right size.) Because the pastry is quite soft, lifting it into the tin may prove difficult to impossible (that is what I found), so if this happens, try to place the largest sized pieces of rolled out dough you can work with in the tin, and then mush them together (which should be easy to do if the pastry really is that soft). Just try to make sure that it is even. Place into the freezer and freeze for 30 minutes.
Take the pastry shell out of the freezer and prod the base a couple of times with the prongs of a fork (this is something I did not do, causing the base to rise up a bit at the bottom). Line it with baking paper, and fill with rice or baking weights and bake for 10 minutes. Take out the paper and weights and put back in the oven for 10 minutes or until it dries. I left it in for much longer than 10 minutes and my pastry was a little dry, so it is worth keeping an eye on it and not letting it get too golden, as the pastry will cook more when you have added the filling. Leave to cool, and start on the filling (note that you can also make the filling earlier when the pastry is in the fridge or freezer and place it to one side if you would like to save on time). Leave on the oven as you will need it again soon…
(From David Lebovitz’s, French Pear and Almond Tart Recipe)
170g (6 ounces) of almond paste (this can be founds in cans in the supermarket in the US – if you can’t find it there are recipes online to make your own)
2 teaspoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of flour
85g (3oz) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 large egg
Break up the almond paste with a wooden spoon and mix in the sugar and flour. Beat in the egg and egg-white, and whisk until smooth. Spread evenly in the tart shell.
I also made an almond crisp topping, though this is optional as it didn’t really add much because the nectarines covered most of the top of the tart meaning it wasn’t really able to get crisp. If you wanted to just make a marzipan tart, however, this would be a great topping and you could leave out the nectarines altogether.
5 ripe nectarines
3 tablespoons of maple syrup (a little more for drizzling over tart slices)
(For the optional almond crunch – see explanation above. This is from Donna Hay Magazine, issue 49)
60g (2oz) almond meal (ground almond)
1 1/2 tablespoons of plain white flour
45g butter (salted or unsalted)
1 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar or white sugar
Begin by slicing up the nectarines and placing them in a bowl with the maple syrup. The aim is to have them caramelise, which is not what turned out with my tart as the maple syrup just ended up sliding off the top of the tart and the nectarines got a little dried out. So, I think soaking them in the maple syrup first might be best. However, pay attention here, because it is very important: The original maple-glaze recipe was meant for a dessert in a deeper dish than the tart tin. When I placed the tart in the oven the maple syrup started to drip off and on to the bottom of the oven causing the sugar to burn there and filling the oven with smoke. Burning sugar is extremely hot, and when it hardens, very difficult to remove, so try to avoid this. Though I think that soaking the nectarines rather than drizzling the syrup over the top should stop this, you should make sure to put a baking tray under your tart dish to catch any spills.
To make the almond crisp (if this is what you have decided to do) mix all the ingredients together, and then smooth it out over the top of the marzipan filling.
Place the nectarines over the top of the tart, and put in the oven (which should still be on 180 degrees centigrade (350 degrees fahrenheit) from when the pastry was baking). Bake for around 30 minutes, until the nectarines look like they are caramelising.
Serve with ice cream and a drizzle of maple syrup. This will keep for a few days, though the crust will get a little harder when it is left in the fridge.