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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Shortcakes with Raspberry Cream and Fresh Peaches

Even though we are just on the heels of spring, it still happens to be the final days of winter. However, the weather outside certainly begs to differ. With temperatures soaring into the eighties throughout this past week, I have to say that I was not prepared for the sudden gusts of heat and the return of summer clothing. Maybe I am crazy, but for a while I was hoping that the weather could return to normal again, but oh well, times changed and I am glad to have this great weather. In fact, I was so happy that I set out to make this very summery desert for a little gathering at my house over the weekend. It’s a shortcake, a classic emblem of American deserts, but instead of going the boring route of strawberries and whipped cream, I decided to get a little more sophisticated with a raspberry cream and fresh peach slices to top my shortcakes, and in my opinion, I think that truly is the beauty of this desert. Shortcakes are essentially a sweet biscuit, which can serve as a vehicle for whatever fruit and cream combination you desire. I can already see future combinations now: blackberries with lemon curd, mangoes with cardamon cream, strawberries and chocolate mousse, oh the possibilities are endless!

Unfortunately, this really is a desert that you should make during summer because let’s be honest, spring, “cough cough should I actually say winter?”, is not exactly peach season. I ended up with rock hard peaches that I had to flambe at the last minute, leading to quite a disastrous presentation, which you can view in the hilarious clip attached (I have no idea why I was speaking in a British accent). Fortunately, I took better pictures, barely, the next day once the peaches had cooled down.

So yeah, definitely give these shortcakes a try, a couple of months from now, and I assure you that you will be quite pleased with the results.

Recipe: Shortcakes with Raspberry Cream and Fresh Peaches

Makes 12 shortcakes

Biscuit Recipe (Adapted from Food and Wine)

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cubed, plus 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons turbinado (i just used regular) sugar

Raspberry Cream (Adapted from Bon Appetit)

  • 12 ounces raspberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

For Assembly

  • 2-3 fresh peaches, peeled and sliced

Method: 

  1. First prepare the raspberry cream. In a pot, combine the raspberries, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, butter, and salt. Heat the mixture over  medium heat for 5-10 minutes, until the mixture comes to a simmer and thickens. Make sure to stir frequently.
  2. Place the raspberry curd in the fridge until cooled completely, 6 hours to overnight.
  3. Whip up the heavy cream and then fold in the cooled raspberry curd. Place the completed mixture in the fridge until ready to serve.
  4. Now make your biscuits. Start by preheating the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Then place the all-purpose flour, cake flour, sugar, butter, baking powder, and salt in a food processor, pastry blender, or use two knives to blend the mixture until the butter is the size of peas. Stir in the cream until the dough is shaggy.
  5. Knead the dough on a lightly-floured surface for a couple of minutes till the dough comes together. Roll out the half the dough into a 7-inch round that is 3/4 inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter, a bowl, a glass, or whatever cutting device you have, stamp out 6 biscuits. Repeat with the other half of the dough till you have a total of 12 biscuits.
  6. Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the tops of the biscuits are golden brown. Allow the biscuits to cool for a bit.
  7. To assemble the shortcakes, cut a biscuit in half. On the bottom half of the biscuit plop on some of the raspberry cream and top with a few fresh peach slices. Place the top half of the biscuit on top of the whole thing to create a completed shortcake.

Cooking Notes:

  • If fresh peaches are not in season, you can use frozen ones. I would recommend stewing them with a little sugar and vodka to soften up the peaches and letting the mixture cool before plating.
  • If you would like to view the crazy clip of me trying to eat the rapidly sagging desert, check it out over here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nllvWPTv35A&feature=youtu.be