Peaches are tricky. They’re probably one of my favorite fruits, but I think they’re difficult to bake with. It’s not because they’re not delicious. But they’re so delicious on their own, I find most desserts don’t really improve them. Fresh peaches – eaten whole or in slices – have a delicate, peachy flavor that can disappear when they’re cooked. And the flavor is so delicate it can be overshadowed by more aggressive flavors.
I knew I wanted to make a tart – partly to use the peaches I picked on the Treet field trip, and party to practice my pâte brisée making skills. So I decided to make a cheesecake tart and top it with fresh peaches. Yes, the original recipe called for the fruit to be cooked right along with the filling, but peaches don’t really need that type of treatment. They’re perfect just as they are.
This is a lovely way to use fresh fruit – the cheesecake filling is just tart enough to bring out the peach flavor, and the flaky crust gives a lovely textural contrast. The recipe is long but don’t fret – everything is simple enough to do. You’re using fresh peaches, after all, so you can’t really go wrong.
Fresh Peach Cheesecake Tart
Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, By Julia Child and The Pie And Pastry Bible, By Rose Levy Beranbaum
Makes one 9 inch tart
For the Pate Brisee
1 cup (5 oz) flour
3 oz (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 oz (2 tbs) vegetable shortening, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
3 to 4 1/2 tbs iced water
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
For the cheesecake filling
3 1/2 tbs cream cheese
3 tbs sugar
1 egg white
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp Grand Marnier
5 medium peaches, cored and thinly sliced
1/4 cup peach or apricot preserves
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar. Freeze the flour mixture, butter, shortening, and the processor blade for 1/2 hour before using. Fit the blade on the processor, and then add the flour mixture, butter, and shortening to the bowl. Pulse a couple of time, in five second bursts – until the butter and shortening are the size of small peas. Sprinkle 3 tbs of the water over the flour mixture and pulse until the dough just comes together. If necessary, add more water one teaspoon at a time. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll between lightly floured pieces of parchment paper until 1/8 inch thick. Place in a lightly greased 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom, and gently press into the corners and sides of the mold with your fingers. Cut off excess dough by rolling your rolling pin over the top of the tart pan.
Weight crust down by placing a piece of parchment or buttered foil (butter side down) on the pie crust and filling the top with rice, dried beans, or pie weights. Bake crust for 20 minutes. Remove the pie weights and parchment/foil and prick the bottom of the crust all over with the tines of a fork (this will stop the crust from rising up). Bake for 5-10 minutes more, until the bottom of the crust is lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
Turn down oven to 375.
For the filling, process the cream cheese, nutmeg, cinnamon, and sugar in the food processor until smooth. Add the egg yolks, egg white, heavy cream, and Grand Marnier and gently pulse until just combined (the mixture will still be slightly lumpy). Pour into prepared crust and bake for 30-35 minutes until the filling is slightly puffed and lightly browned. Place on a rack to cool completely and then chill for at least 1 hour before unmolding.
Place the peach or apricot preserves in a small saucepan and heat until runny (if the preserves are still thick then thin with a little water). Strain into a clean bowl.
Fan peach slices over the top of the tart in a decorative pattern. Lightly brush the peaches with the preserves. Serve cool.