Saturday, August 14, 2010

Asian-Spiced Fresh Peach Crostata


Peaches are abundant this time of year, and considering they are one of my favorite fruits, I couldn't be happier.  I recently had some extra homemade pie dough in my freezer that I wanted to use, and I figured some sort of peach pie would be the perfect use.  But I was too lazy to make more pie dough (I know, it's sooooo easy, but we all have our moments of laziness, and this was mine) so I knew I wouldn't be making a pie with a top crust.  I wanted to limit my creation to what I already had (which is actually a really great way to plan meals, inspired by things in your fridge and pantry instead of going out and buying a ton of new ingredients).  So instead of making an old school peach pie, I decided to use my singular crust to make a crostata, or free form tart.

I considered keeping it simple with a little flour and sugar as the only other filling ingredients outside of the fruit itself, but I decided against it.  I wanted something outstanding, something with spice, something that wouldn't cover up the great peach flavor, but instead highlight it and infuse it with warmth.  I had some fresh ginger... obvious flavor association with peaches.  I absolutely, positively looooove honey, so that was also an easy substitution for the sugar.  Finally, I decided instead of simply tossing some cinnamon in there, which seemed like a typical response for how to "spice it up," I went in a different route.  I remembered a recent episode of Top Chef where the contestants were challenged to make--you guessed it-- pies!  One of my favorites (who was recently eliminated--BOOOOO!) made a pie using Chinese Five Spice powder (a mixture of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, and pepper) as one of the ingredients.  I always thought that particular spice mixture seemed like it could easily suit savory and sweet dishes, but in this case it was not only a highlight in the dish, but the oh-so-hot Johnny Iuzzini, pastry chef at Jean Georges, loved it!  In fact, that recipe won the challenge!  I was sold.

I needed no more convincing that I was on the right track to add it to one of my sweet dishes, because if he liked it, I knew I wasn't crazy for thinking it would work.  Well, let's just say, it worked :) Personally, I'm not a fan of licorice flavor, which is pretty much what star anise tastes like, but you'd be surprised.  Although from the very first bite the spices hit you (you know this ain't a boring old pie), they are still subtle enough not to completely overwhelm the naturally sweet fresh peaches.  It tastes spiced, but not spicy, not so much so that it takes anything away.  My aunt, who is one of my personal cooking heroes, absolutely loved it, which is good enough for me.  I hope you like it too!

Asian-Spiced Fresh Peach Crostata
Serves 6 to 8

For the Crust:
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup very cold water
1 1/2 cups + 1 T. all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out dough
1/2 cup + 2 1/2 T. unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small cubes

For the Filling:
4 peaches, pitted and sliced
1 T. fresh minced ginger
2 T. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. Chinese Five-Spice powder
3 T. honey, plus 1 tsp. for drizzling
1 egg, beaten with 1 T. water

Start by making the crust. In a small bowl add the salt to the water and stir to dissolve. Keep cold in the refrigerator.

In a food processor, put the flour in the work bowl and add the small butter cubes, scattering all over. Pulse briefly until the mixture forms large crumbs and some of the butter is still the size of peas. Add the water-salt mixture and pulse for several seconds until the dough begins to come together in a ball. You should still be able to see some butter chunks.

On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into a disk 1 inch thick. Wrap well in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or up to overnight (this dough can now be frozen in a freezer bag and then defrosted in the refrigerator the day before it is to be used).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Add the peach slices to a large mixing bowl and toss with the ginger, flour, Chinese Five-Spice powder, and 3 T. honey.


Place the chilled dough on a floured surface and roll out 1/8 inch thick, lifting and rotating the dough to make sure it doesn't stick, and working quickly to ensure the dough stays as cold as possible. Add more flour to the board as needed. Trim the edges of the circle if you wish, or leave them slightly ragged for a more rustic look. Roll the dough circle gently over the rolling pin and then gently unroll the circle over parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Pour the peach mixture into the center of the crust, leaving a 2 inch border. Fold the edges over the peach mixture a little at a time, fanning as you go.



Brush the edges with the egg wash. Bake the crostata for about 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Cool on a rack. Drizzle the exposed fruit with 1 tsp. honey, and serve warm or at room temperature.



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