Berry Custard Tart

Glazed fresh fruit tart looks so elegant and summer-ish. They are the perfect dessert, whether your meal is casual or formal. In some ways, I guess its a version of a fruit pizza.

Apart from the fresh fruit and glaze, pastry cream adds a nice base to the tart. A custard pudding hybrid, pastry cream is used for ‘filling’, in the cold form, not as a pudding. Widely used to fill desserts like napoleons, cakes, cream puffs, tarts, etc.

To define, pastry cream is basically custard thickened with cornstarch and has a higher stability as compared to custard puddings which use just eggs to achieve their creamy texture. Vanilla is the classic flavor because it has to complete other flavors of the dessert. Pure vanilla is always best as the artificial flavorings add bitter taste profiles. In addition, some alcoholic desserts use pastry cream mixed with rum.

This tart has a layer of vanilla pastry cream, topped with raspberries and blueberries then brushed with an apricot glaze.

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Berry Custard Tart
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Pastry Cream
  1. In a heavy saucepan, stir together the milk & 1/4 cup sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks & egg. Stir together the remaining sugar & cornstarch; then stir them into the egg until smooth. When the milk comes to a boil, drizzle it into the bowl in a thin stream while mixing so that you don't cook the eggs. Return the mixture to the saucepan; slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly so the eggs don't curdle or scorch on the bottom.
  3. When the mixture comes to a boil & thickens, remove from the heat. Stir the butter & vanilla, mixing until the butter is completely blended in. Pour into a heat proof container & place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled then beat until smooth with an electric mixer before using.
Other Prep Work
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Line an oblong tart pan with thawed puff pastry. The short ends of the pastry should be even with the bottom of the pan but the long sides should come up to the top of pan sides. With a sharp knife, score the long sides where the sides meet the bottom of pan. Do not cut all the way through. Pierce the center of the pastry with a fork. Whisk together the egg and milk. Brush the edges of the pastry shell with the egg wash.
  3. Bake the pastry shell for 15-20 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Remove to a rack to cool completely. If needed, press the center down lightly to create an indentation. Cool while preparing filling.
  4. Rinse & carefully dry fruit on paper towels. In a small blender, puree apricot preserves with water or liqueur until smooth.
Assembly
  1. Place smooth pastry cream in a piping bag with a large flat tip. Carefully pipe pastry cream in long strips to cover the bottom ONLY of the puff pastry shell.
  2. Arrange a row of raspberries down both sides of the tart; close to the edge & close to each other. Using a long straight edge helps to place the fruit in an even line.
  3. To 1/3 of the apricot glaze add some red food coloring to help accent the natural color of the raspberries. Apply a couple of light coats of the glaze carefully to the raspberries.
  4. Fill the center of the area with blueberries, being careful to distribute evenly in rows. Using the remainder of the un-colored apricot glaze, give several light coats to blueberries. Chill until ready to serve.

Spiced Persimmon Tarte Tatin

Browning, bruised and overlooked, you can’t help but feel bad for the half dozen persimmons nestled on the grocery shelf waiting to be selected. As I mentioned in an earlier post, there is no end to the ways persimmons can be used.

In this recipe, I used some Chinese five-spice to give the persimmons a spicy upgrade. With the unique flavor profile of this interesting spice, it often pulls double duty in savory and sweet dishes.

It seems that the exact origin of five-spice powder is unknown but there is some speculation that the blend was created in traditional Chinese medicine. A very unique spice blend that represents a wide range of flavors from sweet, salty and bitter to pungent and sour. Rumor has it that the Chinese were trying to create a ‘miracle powder’ that was representative of all the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Then again, its possible that a cook accidentally stumbled upon this particular combination of spices and realized its power to improve on a bland dish. In any case, it is very versatile and can be used not only in cooking but also adds a unique flavor to baked goods.

Many recipes for five-spice powder exist but there is no one traditional recipe. Often the ingredients and amounts can vary from region to region and are different depending on the household and individual tastes. The original blend contained star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, fennel seed, cinnamon and cloves. A staple in Chinese cuisine but has also found its way into other international cuisines such as Vietnamese and Hawaiian food.

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Spiced Persimmon Tarte Tatin
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Lay puff pastry on a piece of parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap; chill until needed.
  2. In a skillet, melt butter & sprinkle sugar evenly over it. Add peeled, sliced persimmons & sauté until liquid is bubbling & lightly golden. Reduce heat & continue cooking until persimmons are tender. If you wish, thicken any juices with the cornstarch. Remove from heat & divide evenly into 6 ramekin dishes. Sprinkle persimmons evenly with five-spice & salt.
  3. Cut 6 rounds from chilled puff pastry larger than the tops of the ramekin dishes. Place a pastry round over each dish of persimmons tucking edges down inside.
  4. Bake until pastry is golden & cooked through, 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool then run a knife around edge of ramekin dish. Carefully but quickly invert onto a serving plate.

Mushroom ‘Holly’ & Olive Straws

CELEBRATING NEW YEAR’S EVE!

A time to look back on the passing year and generally take ‘stock’ as well as looking forward to the new year approaching. New Year’s Eve means different things to different people. Before covid entered our lives, parties & celebrations were the order of the day, a happy way to speed the old year out and the new year in. Many traditions are involved in the New Year’s celebration, one of which is the singing of ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

The words and music of Auld Lang Syne have evolved over the years. Although the song has often been credited to the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, he never claimed to have written the poem or compose the melody but was inspired by someone singing it. The best translation of the Scottish words are ‘for the sake of old times’.

The traditional melody of the song is rarely heard nowadays and is more folkish. The version we’re familiar with dates to 1929. It was Guy Lombardo, the Canadian born bandleader that helped make Auld Lang Syne a New Year’s Eve tradition in North America. His band, the Royal Canadians, played the song at the turn of the new year in a series of popular radio (and later television) broadcasts that began on December 31, 1929 and continued for more than 30 years. This musical tradition is still sung all over the world, evoking a sense of belonging and fellowship, tinged with nostalgia.

Until I researched this songs history, I didn’t actually know the English ‘translation’ of it. This is what I found it to be:

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

And surely, you’ll buy your pint cup! And surely, I’ll buy mine! And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

We two have run about the slopes and picked the daisies fine; But we’ve wandered many a weary foot, since auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream, from morning sun till dine; But seas between us broad have roared Since auld lang syne.

 And there’s a hand my trusty friend! And give me a hand o’ thine! And we’ll take a right good will draught, For auld lang syne.

So here we are, with a new year just around the corner. As a farmer’s daughter, I still hang on to the mind set of my father and that was, that next year will definitely be better.

I am posting a couple of little hors d’oeuvres you might enjoy if you are bringing in the new year at home with family.

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Mushroom Leaves & Olive Straws
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Instructions
Mushroom Leaves
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Using a holly leaf cookie cutter, cut 18 leaves from thawed puff pastry. Place in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate while mushrooms cook.
  3. In a skillet over medium-low heat, heat olive oil & add the shallot & salt. Sauté until beginning to brown & caramelize. Remove the shallot to a bowl & set aside.
  4. In the same skillet, heat the remaining olive oil & sauté mushrooms until tender & moisture has evaporated. Add garlic, thyme & pepper; sauté for an additional minute. Place in the bowl with the shallot. Stir in the cheese.
  5. In a dish, whisk egg & milk. With your finger tip, moisten edges of the pastry leaves with egg wash. Put a tiny bit of mustard in the center of each leaf.
  6. Divide mushroom/cheese mixture between leaves. Bake until pastry is golden brown and puffed, about 25 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Serve warm.
Olive Straws
  1. On a lightly floured work surface, unfold 1 (10"x10") sheet of puff pastry. Roll pastry with rolling pin to increase size slightly (about 1/2 -3/4-inch. Cut the sheet in half.
  2. Place about 10 olives, end to end in a straight line across the pastry starting about 3/4 of an inch from the edge. Repeat with 2 more rows, leaving about the same width between each row.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and milk. Brush egg mixture on all exposed spaces between olives. Cover with the other half of the puff pastry, pressing the whole surface of the dough between the olives & outside edges firmly with your fingertips. Transfer to refrigerator; let chill 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  5. Using a very sharp knife, trim edges of dough; cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide straws. Lay flat-side down on a baking sheet. Transfer to oven and bake until pastry is golden and crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer straws to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm. Yield: 24 olive straws

Tarte Tatin w/ Onions, Cheese & Thyme

If you’re familiar with the French dessert called ‘Tarte Tatin’, you know that it is an upside-down caramelized apple tart. Basically, the apples are underneath the pastry. As with many things of brilliance, the creation was actually an accident. Named after the woman who invented it, Caroline Tatin, who had become a little distracted while baking an apple dessert at her hotel restaurant. She mixed butter, sugar and peeled apples, poured the mixture into a baking dish, completely forgetting the pastry. The mixture cooked & caramelized before she realized there was no pastry under it. In attempt to save the dessert, she placed some pastry on top and returned it to the oven. The result was Tarte Tatin with deliciously inversed flavors.

Onions are really a perfect bridge to take a normally sweet dish into the savory world.  They already caramelize beautifully and when you add honey, spices, cheese and puff pastry, there’s really not a lot that could go wrong. The same traditional Tarte Tatin concept in a savory version. 

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Tarte Tatin w/ Onions, Cheese & Thyme
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Cut each onion lengthwise into 12 wedges, leaving roots intact.
  3. In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions; cook, turning occasionally, until just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add vinegar & honey (or apple cider vinegar & brown sugar); cook for 5 minutes. Add thyme, salt & pepper; sprinkle with Parmesan. Remove from heat.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, gently roll pastry sheet to remove any crease lines. Using a knife, cut pastry into a 13-inch circle. Place pastry onto onions, carefully tucking edges down into skillet. Cut 2 small slits in top of pastry to release steam.
  5. Bake until pastry is puffed & golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Carefully invert tarte onto a serving platter. Serve immediately. Garnish with thyme if desired.

Mini Lemon Kiwi Strudel

Like many dishes, this one is a fusion of different cultures. Strudel is an Austro-Hungarian pastry made with a thin, layered dough. Originally that dough was the almost transparent sheets of Turkish phyllo. Subsequent cultures employed the much easier to use puff pastry.

The word strudel is a Germanic word for ‘whirlpool’. You can visualize someone back than saying …… ‘can I please have some of that stuff that looks like’, (and they spin their fingers) and say ‘whirlpool’.

Strudel fillings have varied over the years from savory to sweet, depending on who was making them. European immigrants brought their recipes to North America in the early 20th century, and strudel became popular in bakeries and restaurants.

Today, I’m making some individual strudels in a little different style. I guess I’ll just say I’m ‘reinterpreting the strudel’.

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Mini Lemon Kiwi Strudel
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STRUDELS
Ingredients
Lemon Pudding Mixture
Servings
STRUDELS
Ingredients
Lemon Pudding Mixture
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Instructions
  1. Peel & dice kiwi; place in a large bowl. Gently fold in lemon juice (if using) & set aside.
  2. Roll out half of the puff pastry until thin; cut into 3 even, long slices. Lightly brush the slices with cream.
  3. Spread half of the drained kiwi/lemon mixture down the center on all 3 slices.
  4. Roll the dough over the kiwi mixture from bottom to top, until you have even rolls. Pinch the sides of the rolls to seal them. Repeat with second half of puff pastry & kiwi mixture until you have 12 strudels.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly grease a 12 cup muffin tin OR use silicone cups.
  6. Cut rolls in the middle & transfer with the closed side down into a muffin tin.
  7. In a pouring container, whisk together lemon pudding powder with 1 1/2 cups water. Pour about 2 tablespoons into each strudel. Spread egg wash over strudels.
  8. Bake strudel for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.
  9. Remove from oven & allow to cool for a few minutes. Take strudels out of baking cups. Top with a dollop of lemon pudding (see NOTES below).
Recipe Notes
  • You will have some lemon pudding & egg wash leftover. I added the egg to the pudding mix & cooked it until it thickened. 
  • I placed a dollop on top of each strudel for a nice finishing touch.
  • It was a good way to use the leftovers.

Scallop Shell Pies

Scallop shell pies are a nice touch in the savory pie world, I guess you could say it’s a seafood inspired twist on a classic!

We are only in the month of March, so there’s plenty of time to savor comfort food at its finest. Typically, pot pie does not have an abundance of ingredients so it is imperative to build a good flavor profile.

When making the sauce, I always use stock as opposed to water. Any thickened sauce depends on a roux. Making sure its cooked to a light golden brown helps to avoid the ‘flour’ taste and allows the other ingredients to come to the forefront.

Within the loose definition of a ‘pot pie’, its easy to add (or remove) flavors that interest you. Its all about creative expression!

When choosing the pastry, there are no right answers, just numerous possibilities that depend on the maker. Modern convenience embraces the use of puff pastry as a flakier, more delicate solution. You could call it a weeknight comfort food’s best friend.

This pot pie is made with a puff pastry ‘scallop shell’ lid and no bottom crust. The golden crust acts like a piece of bread and soaks up some of the decadence with every bite. Adding scallops to a creamy vegetable based filling creates an amazing meal.

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Scallop Shell Pies
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Pastry
  1. Thaw puff pastry. Leave on parchment & cut out 2 shell shapes to cover your ramekins. Mark with the lines on them to replicate sea shells. Place in fridge until ready to use.
Filling
  1. In a saucepan, fry bacon until crisp; remove & drain on paper towel. Sauté leek, mushrooms & garlic in bacon drippings for a few minutes. Add cooked, diced potatoes, flour & seasoning.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  3. Sauté for another minute, making sure to coat everything with the flour. Add chicken broth, stirring well to dissolve the flour; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, add scallops, crumbled bacon, cream & salt & pepper to taste; gently stir to combine.
  4. Remove filling from heat & divide between ramekins. Top with chilled puff pastry & brush with egg wash. Bake for about 20 minutes or until nice & golden.
Recipe Notes
  • When I have some pastry scraps leftover, I make a bit of cinnamon/sugar to sprinkle on it. It makes a few little tasty sweet snacks to nibble on.

Mushroom Meatball Wellington

Meatballs don’t have to be boring. Tender, juicy meatballs, wrapped in puff pastry and served with a zesty sauce makes an easy, inexpensive version of the classic beef wellington.

Economical and versatile, cooking with ground meat opens up plenty of avenues for experimenting. Beyond reliable beef, almost all meats can be ground, but each kind of meat should be treated differently to fully enjoy the benefits.

Consider the fat content of ground meat before you buy. Some fat content is desirable as it adds flavor and helps to keep meat moist during cooking. Choose different types of ground meat for specific dishes. For example …. fatty beef makes juicier burgers but leaner ground turkey or chicken works better served as smaller meatballs or in a sauce. Ground pork makes for a cheaper burger than beef, plus it is unlikely to dry out. Flavor pork with spices like mace, or herbs like sage, thyme and fennel seeds and of course always ensure its cooked through. Ground meat is one of those things that generally ‘you get what you pay for’.

These meatballs make a tasty meal that can be ‘dressed up or down’, depending on what it is served with.

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Meatball Wellington
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Instructions
  1. In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Saute mushrooms, onion & garlic until onions & garlic are soft & most of the moisture has been released from the mushrooms, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, combine cooled veg mixture, pork, breadcrumbs & seasonings; mix all ingredients until incorporated. Shape mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs.
  4. Cut thawed puff pastry into thin strips. Wrap each meatball with a few strips of the pastry & place on the baking sheet. Brush pastry with egg wash.
  5. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden & meat is cooked through. Remove from oven & place on serving platter. These are nice to serve with steamed broccoli, mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy.

Beef w/Porcini Risotto en Croute

Italy, often regarded as the home country of pasta, still has a deep love for another popular dish called risotto. Risotto like pasta can be dressed with an endless variety of ingredients.

Mushroom risotto is a delicious variation on this classic dish. The beauty of mushroom risotto is in its earthiness of the mushrooms you choose. Italians make mushroom risotto with fresh porcini mushrooms when they are in season in spring and fall. If you are unable to find some at an Italian store, dried porcini mushrooms make an excellent substitute in this recipe.

The key to preparing items en croute is that however long it takes to cook the pastry until its golden brown, is how long the item will spend in the oven.

Normally, Beef En Croute can be an expensive proposition. By using a well seasoned ground beef instead of ‘Beef Tenderloin‘, it can be transformed into a more economical meal but still have a degree of richness & elegance to it.

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Beef w/ Porcini Risotto en Croute
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Ingredients
Risotto
Porcini Mushrooms
Pastry
Servings
Ingredients
Risotto
Porcini Mushrooms
Pastry
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Instructions
Risotto
  1. Dice onion & garlic finely. Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a saucepan & cook until tender soft. Add risotto mix along with hot chicken broth. The rice should be soft cooked in about 20 minutes. Stir in Parmesan & 1 1/2 tsp butter. Your mixture should not be loose or dry. Set aside to cool.
Beef
  1. In a saucepan, saute ground beef along with diced onions, garlic & spices. Cook ONLY until beef is no longer pink. Remove from heat & allow to cool.
Mushrooms
  1. Brush mushrooms with a clean damp cloth & slice. Heat oil in saucepan & saute mushrooms with thyme to release some of their moisture. Remove from heat & set aside to cool.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Brush one of the puff pastry sheets with egg white. Down the center of the pastry sheet, spread the risotto & top with half of the mushrooms. Next, top with the spiced beef & remaining mushrooms.
  3. Lay the second sheet of pastry on top & either braid the edges or press pastry together with a fork. Beat together egg yolk & remaining white plus a bit of water. Brush pastry evenly with beaten egg. Bake until golden about 20 - 25 minutes.
Recipe Notes
  • When using dried mushrooms for this or any dish, soak them in boiling water for 30 minutes, strain the liquid, & add it to your dish or save for another day. In this preparation, add it to the broth.

‘Cinnamon Roll’ Cherry Pie

This cinnamon roll cherry pie is a unique take on the classic cherry pie. Mini cinnamon rolls line the pie pan to form the ‘crust’ makes it look so special.

After I saw a photo of a similar idea on Pinterest, some of our sour cherries came to mind and my recipe development came into play once again.

Taking that classic cinnamon roll flavor and making the base of a fruit pie seems perfect. You would probably not want to use it with a key lime pie, but anything that already uses cinnamon such as pumpkin or sweet potato should work great with this type of ‘crust’.

After I made a small amount of sour cherry filling it seemed only logical to make a bit of cream cheese filling to go with it.

While my little culinary creation was baking, I mixed up a bit of lemon glaze for drizzling on it when it had cooled slightly. This turned out to be a seriously good cherry cream pie!

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'Cinnamon Roll' Cherry Pie
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, Ecuador, German
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Instructions
Sour Cherry Filling
  1. In a saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch & salt. Add juice/water mixture & stir to thoroughly combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes. Immediately remove from heat. Fold in cherries & cool to room temperature.
Cream Cheese Filling
  1. In a bowl, beat together cream cheese, egg, sugar & vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth. In a separate dish, combine cinnamon & cardamom spices.
Assembly
  1. On a sheet of parchment paper, roll puff pastry into a 12 X 16-inch (35 cm X 45 cm) rectangle. Brush on a thin layer of the cream cheese filling. Sprinkle with spice mixture. Roll it up tightly, starting from one of the long sides. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes or until firm enough to slice easily.
  2. When pastry has chilled, slice roll into 18 pieces. Line a greased 9-inch pie dish with half of the mini spiced rolls. Lay them in the center first & work your way outwards. Press them down in the dish so they stick together & form a base for the pie. Top the pastry first with remaining cream cheese filling, then the sour cherry filling.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. On a sheet of parchment paper, lay out the remaining 9 pastry rolls in a circular shape. Place a second sheet of parchment on top. Using a rolling pin, flatten the rolls slightly so they stick together to form the top crust. Pull off the top parchment & flip pastry over the filled pie; gently press it to conform to the pie edges.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes. If top crust is browning too fast, cover outside edges with foil.
  5. In a small dish, combine powdered sugar with lemon juice. After the pie has cooled, drizzle with lemon glaze.

Nectarine Custard Tart

A nectarine is a variant of a peach …. one genetic step away and fuzz-less. White nectarines were the only kind available up until 1942, when a white one was crossed with a peach resulting in a yellow/red nectarine.

Just like peaches, both have similar sugar levels. However, white nectarines taste sweeter because they have less acid than the yellow varieties. Probably the most reliable way to pick a good-tasting nectarine is by its strong, sweet aroma. Traditional peach pies and cobblers can easily be interchanged with nectarines. Their firmer flesh softens when cooked but still holds its shape and leaving the skin on not only saves time but improves the flavor.

When nectarines are in season, I hate to miss out on the chance to incorporate them into whatever I can. To avoid getting into any long detailed procedures today, I’m going with this custard tart. It meets all requirements …. pre-fab pastry, egg-less custard and some of those wonderful nectarines, not to mention the bonus of how pretty it looks.

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Nectarine Custard Pie
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut six 1-inch wide strips of dough from the sheet of puff pastry (best to cut one from the top, one from the bottom & four from the side). Place a large (9 x 2-inch) pie plate on the uncut area of dough, trace a circle around it with a knife. Place the round piece of dough in the pie plate. Place in refrigerator until ready to assemble & bake.
  2. In a saucepan, whisk together milk, sugar, cornstarch, salt & vanilla. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly. Once the mixture is hot, lower the heat to medium-low to prevent the bottom from burning. Continue cooking until mixture thickens. Remove from heat & cool. When cooled, spread the pudding over puff pastry using a spoon to smooth it out.
  3. Halve nectarines, remove the pits & cut in even slices. Place the nectarine slices in the pudding cream, starting at outer edge, slightly overlapping, & working your way in.
  4. Take the 6 strips of dough from beginning & lay them in between the nectarine ring layers until the design is complete. Take the last dough strip, roll it up & place it directly in the center of the pie dish.
  5. Brush the puff pastry with egg wash. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden. If you wish, brush apricot preserve over tart while it is still warm.