Summertime Special: Spiced Mango and Peach Tartlets

The bounty of summer produce here in America would not be complete without the arrival of the juicy peach. Likewise in India, the dry season of early spring is blooming with sweet Alphonso mangoes. Lucky for me, these two fruits work beautifully together, and they form the core of this harmonious desert. Pies are an uncommon sight in India as most people don’t have ovens and prefer to serve their fruit raw. As we Americans can’t get enough of these flaky wonders, I set off to make a pie as it would be made in India, providing one had a place to bake and a desire to do it.

Indians love their spices and they put them in almost everything from chai (tea) in the morning to curry in the evening. However, not all spices are versatile enough to be everywhere. Out of all the spices present in the Indian pantry, it is probably green cardamom and ginger that work well with anyone. Ginger, with its pleasant pop of heat, is used with the same intensity that garlic is in Italian cuisine. Green cardamom is synonymous with both sweet and savory in India. With its elegant, floral flavor, nuanced with hints of vanilla, these little pods perk up an ordinary pie crust and give it loads of flavor. The crumb topping gets a little extra oomph from pistachios, which provide a very Indian crunch, and candied ginger, which is commonly blended, in its raw form, with mangoes to make chutneys and purees.

The ultimate wow factor of this desert is that these are tartlets, and hence, everyone gets their own little pie to enjoy. So much dough may seem intimidating at first, but you will be surprised to know that this dough is such an ease to put together, and because it has cream cheese, it remains really soft and workable. You’ll soon find yourself cranking out tartlets at a faster rate than your own neighborhood bakery. Furthermore, it doesn’t hurt to mention that these are bound to taste far superior and be followed by a shower of praise from your guests.

Recipe: Spiced Mango and Peach Tartlets

Adapted from Rick Bayless

Ingredients

The Dough

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground green cardamom seeds
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

The Filling

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 pounds total of peaches, mangoes, or a mix of both, cut into 3/4 inch slices
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • cornstarch, to be used if the filling is too runny

The Crumb Topping

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup chopped unsalted pistachios
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped candied ginger, adjust to taste
  • 2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

Method

For the Dough: Add the flour, baking powder, and salt to a food processor or mixer. Add the butter and cream cheese. Pulse the mixture till the butter and cream cheese are the size of peas. Drizzle in the vinegar and water over the flour mixture and process till a dough begins to form. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a ball. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for an hour.

For the Filling: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fruit and the sugar and cook till the fruit begins to release its juices. At this point, you can either add cornstarch and have a more traditional thickened fruit filling, or you can continue to cook the mixture till all the liquid as evaporated, and then you will end up with caramelized mangoes and peaches. Either way, your tarts will be delicious. Allow the filling to cool completely.

For the Crumb Topping: Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Using a fork or you fingers, mix until the topping begins to form small clumps that hold together. Set aside the crumb topping for later.

For Assembly: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Divide the dough into six pieces. Roll each piece out into a 6-inch wide disk. Place an equal portion of the cooled filling onto the center of each of the disks, allowing for a 1-inch border. Fold the border of dough over the edge of the filling, pleating it all the way around the filling and pinching the ends to form four corners. Be sure to leave the center open. Transfer the tartlets to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Top each of the tarts with the crumb topping. Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, till the crust is golden brown. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

Cooking Notes:

  • If Indian spices are not your thing, you can view the original recipe by Rick Bayless over here: http://www.rickbayless.com/recipe/view?recipeID=318
  • Another clarification on the filling. In the Rick Bayless recipe, he caramelizes his mangoes by evaporating all of the liquid and thus he does not need any cornstarch to thicken the filling. If you are planning on keeping the fruit juices in your filling, as I did, you will need to add some cornstarch (about 2 teaspoons to a tablespoon) when the mixture comes to a boil and then mix it well so that it completely dissolves. This will prevent your filling from oozing out of the tart shell while it bakes.
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