peachplumcrostata

Rustic Peach Crostata, with Shiro Plums and Chamomile Honey

We await with patience the arrival of the peach. Each year, for the past seven years, we count the weeks to the date Steve Ela, from Ela Family farms, gives us the season’s opening gala of the most celebrate fruit in Colorado. Sweet and tangy flesh with juices flowing down our chins, hands, and sometimes forearms, the peach is a glorious reminder of the abundant season; each bite is nature’s reward for our endured patience and loyalty. 

coloradopeaches

I didn’t grew up eating peaches, in fact I don’t remember it much in my childhood, and have a slight memory of it in my early-tweenties when I was in a search for new foods back in Colombia where mangoes, pineapples, and guanabana are the everyday fruit staples. Peaches don’t do well in tropical climates, making them hard to find or too expensive compared to a pile of locally grown passion fruit. 

Peach has become my mango. I don’t purchase tropical fruits because, well, I’m not in the tropics. So I dream of peaches during the cooler months when I drown my desires with spoonfuls of the homemade peach-ginger or peach-vanilla jams, atop warm oatmeal, with toasted almonds and a drizzle of honey, as I stare out the window to the fallen leaves or the piling snow. It’s a constant reminder of the bounty of summer.

shiroplums

As peaches arrive so do the trail of baked goods and jams to use up and preserve the harvest. Even thought we eat many of the peaches fresh {leaning over the sink with a towel nearby} the CSA (community supported agriculture) share provides us more than enough for our weekly consumption. Last year we received entire flats of peaches, back to back, turning our house into a mini jam factory churning dozens of jars that lasted us until a few weeks ago. 

I never thought of the idea of making jam and canning enjoyable, and I find myself void of words on how much I’m enjoying this preserving business. It might be silly but it feels as if I’m honoring the season and nature’s hard work by preserving what comes out of the earth in our area. It never occurred to me before, living in Colombia, that preserving was a thing, we have two seasons there – rainy and not rainy – and unless there are severe floods or landslides, or government manipulation of the goods {that’s a totally different subject not to bore you with at this moment}, we have the same foods available year round, so why would I ever worry about preserving back then. Now it’s different. I live in a place with seasons, and I’m learning the true meaning of seasonality. 

With the abundance of fruit comes the baking. One of my favorite baked goods is the crostata, an Italian free-form tart made with a simple dough of butter, flour and water – like a pie dough. I like it because it doesn’t follow a mold, it’s its own self. Loose. Unapologetically messy. Beautiful. Crostatas require you to let go. Just make a dough, roll it flat, pile fruit on it, flop the edges over the fruit, and bake it until bubbly and crunchy brown. 

I make crostata with any fruit, but with peach is the pinnacle. It exudes floral notes with high acidity waking up the entourage of taste buds waiting for a delighting bite. Don’t fret, an apple crostata is great, too, especially if you sprinkle toasted almonds. {I guess everything is better with toasted almonds.}

For this crostata, I also used some of the shiro plums we received last week. Their flesh is sweet and their skin is tart enough to pucker a sergeant in the middle of a line up. Or so we thought. This weekend we had friends visiting us with a baby girl who ate four plums and never flinched. It’s a proven fact that Scott and I are wimps. 

summerfruitcrostata


Rustic Peach Crostata, with Shiro Plums and Chamomile Honey


Our garden is flourishing with chamomile in every corner. I love walking out and seeing all those tiny smily faces, white petals and yellow centers, ready to dry for tea during the winter months. Chamomile adorns the garden, like sparkly pearls earring on a wedding day. I take the blossoms and add them to warm honey, steeping it for 10 minutes. You can fish them out or leave them in the honey. I can’t attest of their texture, but the little girl wasn’t keen on them, raw, right of the plant. 

I found this dough recipe in Alice Water’s Chez Panisse Fruit cookbook many years ago. I ate an Apricot-almond crostata or ‘rustic’ tart at Chez Panisse a couple of years ago, where without hesitation I’d always order dessert because I know it is not about fuzzy presentation or clashing flavors for the sake of looks, but it is about showcasing the fruits in season, the fresh butter in the dough, the delicate balance of flavors and textures. That tart still rings as one of the best dessert I’ve ever had, together with a chocolate cake in a small Italian restaurant in Munich a few years back. 

The trick with this kind of dough is to chill of all the ingredients and tools so the dough doesn’t get mushy and your layers turn into a dream of the past. I use a food processor, mostly because using a hand pasty cutter is too much work and I already did all of that work during the past 15 years in the kitchen, so I take technology’s help whenever possible. 

Dough – Yields 2 – 9″ crostata bases
1 cup All-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour 
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces cold butter, diced (170 grams) 
7 tablespoons ice water

Filling (for one crostata)
5 large peaches 
1 tablespoon of cornstarch 
1 teaspoon of sugar 

Topping 
Egg or milk wash
Raw sugar

  • In the bowl of a food processor, add all the dough ingredients EXCEPT the water. 
  • Pulse until the butter particles blend with the flour. The flour doesn’t look dry and loose.
  • Add the water, while pulsing. You won’t see a dough form, {don’t panic, i did the first few times and I ended up chugging a glass of wine, or two, not a bad thing but slows production} grab a handful of the crumbly mixture and squeeze gently, if it sticks together it is ready. 
  • Pour out the crumbly mixture and using your hands work it into two small balls. Then flatten them ball and wrap in plastic. 
  • Chill the dough for at least 1 hour before rolling it.
  • Heat oven to 375F
  • Slice the fruit {peaches or whatever is in season} and toss with a tablespoon of cornstarch to thicken the fruit juices as it bakes, and the teaspoon of sugar to enhance the natural sweetness of the fruit. The fruit will release juices while you roll the dough, add a couple teaspoons of water once you pour the fruit over the dough and use it to brush the edge of the tart before baking.
  • Roll the dough to about a 9″ circle
  • Pile the fruit on the dough, leaving 1″ border
  • Fold the border over the fruit 
  • Use the juices from the bowl of fruit to brush the dough
  • Sprinkle raw sugar
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes at 375F or until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling around the edges of the tart

2 thoughts on “Rustic Peach Crostata, with Shiro Plums and Chamomile Honey”

    1. This week we get the last batch of peaches from the farm and we’ll be busy preserving and eating. I don’t want it to end but again it’s their short season that makes them ever so special. Thanks for the compliment on the photos 🙂

Leave a Reply