How to Bake with Summer Fruit
Make crostatas — open-faced pies — with fresh summer stone fruits
When I was growing up in Winnipeg in the 1960s, jam crostatas were common winter dessert fare. Of course, they weren’t called that back then. There’s no Italian blood (that we know of) running through my family’s veins, so this throw-together, free-form tart was simply called an open-face pie. (The same tart is called a croustade or a galette in France.) Sometimes, when my mother would run out of one jam, she would spoon on another of a contrasting flavour and colour — one on each side of the rustic pie.
But when summer rolled around, she would splurge on fresh stone fruits and fill pastry circles with apricots, peaches, plums or nectarines, shipped to the prairie city from the Niagara fruit belt in southern Ontario or British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. These fruits are often abundant at the same time, so instead of jam, use your imagination (or your eye for what’s best in the market) to combine them for contrasts in colour, texture and flavour.
Peaches, nectarines, apricots and plums are “climacteric” fruits, meaning they will continue to develop flavour, aroma and sweetness after they are picked. But this will only happen if the fruit is harvested when mature, ensuring enough reserves of starch to fuel its continued ripening, post-harvest. When buying fruit, it should be even and taut, without wrinkles or bruises, and offer up a whiff of its essence through the skin, especially near the stem end. Store fruit at room temperature in a bowl or basket — the flavour of the fruit will be fuller.
If you want to dazzle family and friends, a freshly baked peach crostata is a sure bet.
Add your favourite smash-in ice cream and a rum-spiked caramel sauce, and the result is a little bit of heaven in a bowl.
Let good-quality French vanilla ice cream be your canvas for fanciful smash-in ice cream creations — far easier than buying an ice cream maker. Well-known smash-ins include cookie dough, and cherries and chocolate. But you can create your own with additions of candied ginger and toasted almonds, apple butter with ground cinnamon and nutmeg, or white chocolate and summer berries.
Now, here’s that winning peach crostata, with a smash-in peanut brittle ice cream and a caramel sauce spiked with rum.