While I love vacation, there are a few allowances I have to make cooking-wise when away from my own kitchen for two weeks. All I need is my chef's knife and a pair of tongs to jumpstart savory meals (although this year I'm also packing my cast-iron skillet), dessert is another story. There are no handheld mixers, let alone the 1000 watt Cuisinart Stand Mixer I normally use. Same goes for the food processor. Now, given the choice, I'd probably take at least the latter with me but watching my husband load our luggage like puzzle pieces, eventually muttering something about how much we're taking (newsflash: we're a family of four and two are kids).
So a few weeks ago I decided to experiment with free form tarts. Mainly because the last thing I want to worry about on vacation is the perfect piecrust. I'm also not sure there's a pie plate in the cupboards there either. Using the crust recipe I adapted from Dorie Greenspan as a start, I tweaked some measurements and decided to use a biscuit-making technique since the food processor wouldn't be an option. An old-fashioned pastry blender did the job of cutting in the butter, but truth be told, even using your fingertips to work it in was fine. Yes, I was worried too about the butter getting to soft, but a quick chill in the fridge and all was fine.
It doesn't matter if your tart is an exact circle, so you can eyeball—no need to pack a ruler too. What I love most about free form tarts (besides all that melt-in-your-mouth buttery crust), is they look imperfectly perfect. Those ragged edges give way to a sweet, bubbly, warm fruit filling, making me forget about the modern conveniences of home.
Blackberry Plum Tart
The trick to a really crisp bottom is preheating the baking sheet. And make sure you use a rimmed sheet, or else you'll have a juicy mess all over the bottom of the oven.
For the pastry dough:
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
6 ounces cold butter, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons ice cold water
For the filling:
12 plums, pitted and quartered
1/2 pint blackberries
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup sugar
Place a rimmed baking sheet onto the center rack of the oven. Preheat oven to 400º.
To make the pastry dough, add the flour, salt and sugar to a deep bowl; whisk to combine. Scatter the butter pieces over flour mixture and use a pastry blender, two butter knives or your fingers to cut in the butter (this can alternately be done in a food processor). Sprinkle the cold water over the butter-flour mixture and stir with a fork until the dough forms a rough ball. Wrap in plastic and let rest in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes.
On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll the dough out into a 16-inch circle. Scatter the fruit over the dough, leaving a 4-inch border. Sprinkle the sugar over the fruit and dot with the pieces of remaining butter. Fold the dough border up and over to cover the fruit, forming a crust. Leaving the tart on the parchment paper, place it on the heated baking sheet. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until pastry is a deep golden and the fruit is bubbling in the center. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Peach Raspberry Tart
Serves 6 to 8
Follow the directions for making the blackberry plum tart, except use peaches and raspberries instead.
One unbaked pie tart crust
4 peaches, peeled and sliced
1/2 pint raspberries