Monday, June 29, 2015

I can't run, but I can eat

Hands down the best part of summer? Summer desserts.*

For the past week, my fridge has been almost overflowing with fresh produce. (Fact: I just typed dessert instead of produce, either by accident or because my brain has dessert on the brain.) For the most part I have eaten the fruit as fruit, partly because that's healthier and how God intended it to be eaten, and mostly because I'm really lazy when it comes to fruit and vegetables and pretty much will eat any of it raw.

As the expiration date approached on the 28 limes I had in my fridge, however, my typical wash and eat method would be a little less effective. (Peeling a lime seems like the most unnatural thing, right?) So on Saturday, while I was standing in line somewhere pointless or driving somewhere pointless to stand in line (I hate shopping of all kinds) I mentally cooked up a dessert that used the fresh fruit I have and combined many of my favorite ingredients, like butter. And more butter. And some sugar.

The resulting dessert is descriptively albeit generically a peach-lime tart with meringue and a coconut crust. This, in case you were wondering, is actually how God intended fruit to be eaten. 

(I should pay more attention to my pictures. My tabletop is not pretty.) It's a coconut sugar cookie crust with sliced peaches, lime custard and meringue on top. It is seriously delightful - so good that I won't even use parentheses to emphasize how awesome it is. 

It takes a few steps and some time, and you really should let it cool sufficiently before you cut into it, which I know violates the very important tasting rule (as soon as you can sample without giving yourself a third-degree burn), but it's worth it. Just trust me. Or make it and then you don't have to trust me.

 First, the sugar cookie crust. 

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup coconut oil
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 1/2 cups flour

1. Preheat over to 375 degrees. Line the bottom of a pie pan (or a tart pan, if you have one) with parchment paper. Butter the entire thing, paper and all.
2. Mix butter, oil and sugar until it's smooth and fluffy, that favorite word of cookie makers that just doesn't quite make sense. 
3. Add baking powder and a little salt, mix, then add egg and coconut extract. Mix until it's all mixed in. Add the flour; beat it until it's one smooth and delicious cookie dough.
4. Put parchment paper on the counter, flour it and your rolling pin.  Roll the dough; you probably will only need about 2/3 of it. It should be uniform thickness and bigger than your pie pan. 
5. Carefully lift the parchment paper and quickly flip it over so it lands in the pie pan. You should be able to peel off the paper and have a nice cookie crust in the pan. If you're like me, it is not pretty and you're patching half the crust up. This is fine. We're going solely for flavor here. Alternatively, just use your hands to spread the dough in there. 
6. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Watch it closely. My edges got a little browner than I wanted. 
7. Let it cool.

Next, the peaches.

You need two to three washed ripe but still firm peaches. Nectarines would also work. If the peach were the earth, slice it all along the prime meridian and all the way down to the core. If your peach is firm, you can kind of wrestle the two hemispheres apart. If not, you now have peach juice running down your arms. 

Once your peach is in half, slice again, then slice each quarter into very thin (quarter inch or less) slices. You can have as few as many peaches as you want. Throw them in a bowl, add about a teaspoon of sugar and let them sit. 

Now for the custard.

2 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
Juice and zest from three limes

1. Mix sugar, flour, corn starch and a tiny bit of salt in a saucepan; add water, stir, turn onto medium-high heat and keep stirring. Seriously, you're going to spend a lot time stirring this stuff. It will be worth it. Anyway, stir until bubbles and thickens, then cook for another two minutes. Remove from heat.
2. Separate the eggs. Whisk the egg yolks for a few seconds, then slowly pour about a cup of the sugar mixture into the yolks. Whisk that until it's all evenly mixed, then slowly return this mixture to the sugar mixture.
3. Put the pan back on medium-high heat. And keep stirring. When it starts to gently boil, give it another two minutes, take it off the heat and add the butter, juice and lime zest. Whisk until it's all evenly incorporated.
4. DO NOT SAMPLE. Yes, it's violating another critical sample, but I've sampled this stuff straight off the stove before and while it probably was not a third-degree burn, it hurt like one.
5. Let it cool for a minute or two while you make the meringue. Haul out your stand mixer. Add the egg whites, which should be at room temperature, which "relaxes" them and makes them behave better for you. This is true. I heard it at a cooking demonstration. Mix on high until soft peaks form, then add about a teaspoon of vanilla and one tablespoon of sugar. Continue adding sugar one tablespoon at a time until it's a good sweetness. (This should not be more than four tablespoons, I promise.
6. Preheat the oven to 350, and move a rack to the top.
7. Pour the custard on top of the peaches, covering all the peaches and getting to the edge of the pan.
8. Spread the meringue on top. If you can get it all the way around all the edges, awesome. If not, don't worry about it. Just spread it evenly.
9. Bake on the top oven shelf for 5-7 minutes until the meringue is golden. You want to be very careful about not burning your cookie.
10. When it's done, remove it from the oven, let it cool, then put it in the fridge and walk away. Seriously, make it the night before you want to eat. This gives the flavors time to gel, the custard time to solidify and your brain time to get really excited about what you're about to eat.


* To be honest, the best part of every season is seasonal desserts, except of course for September, which is vacation season, soccer season, the best part of which should be clear, and winter, which is never-get-overheated-while-running season. You'll notice I didn't mention spring. If you've experienced spring in Lubbock, you understand why.

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