I don't know too many people who don't adore pie. It's long been one of my favourite desserts although I seem to not make pies as often as I'd like because I find fiddling with the crust just seems like too much work sometimes. That's why I love this freeform version, similar to an Italian crostata. The pastry is buttery and flaky, but not nearly as tricky to work with as conventional shortening or lard pastry and it’s really easy to make in a food processor. Best of all, you can make the pastry up to a week ahead of time! This crust is fantastic filled with all kinds of fruit, especially softer ones that don't require as much cooking. I have had success with apples as well, though I pre-cooked them with sugar and a little butter for about 5 minutes in a saucepan, then let them cool, prior to adding them to the pastry. If you're working with fresh, perfectly ripe peaches, they're a breeze - just wash, slice (peel if you must) and they're ready to go. If you are fortunate enough to have leftovers, this pie is absolutely sublime for breakfast, just in case you were wondering.
For the pastry
Put the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of the food processor and pulse briefly to combine.
Beat together the egg yolk and 3 tablespoons of the cold water.
Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal (about 15 seconds).
With the machine running, pour the egg yolk and ice water through the feed tube in a steady stream. Turn off machine as soon as you have finished adding the water.
Pinch a teaspoonful of the dough with your fingers to see if it holds together. If it seems a bit dry, add one more tablespoon of water and process for 5 seconds more.
Turn the pastry out onto the counter and use your hands to gather it into a disc about 1 inch thick and 5 – 6 inches across. Cover the pastry with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about one hour. This chills the butter again and also allows the flour to become fully hydrated. If you’re in a rush, pop the wrapped pastry into the freezer for 20 minutes or so. It’s much easier to roll out when chilled.
If you make the pastry well ahead of time, you may need to let it sit on the counter for 15 minutes or so to make it soft enough to roll.
Once the pastry has chilled, remove from refrigerator, unwrap, and sprinkle both sides of the pastry with a little bit of flour. Place between two large sheets of parchment paper. Working always from the centre of the disc, roll the pastry into a 15 inch circle that is uniform in thickness. Remove and discard the top parchment paper sheet.
Keeping it on the bottom sheet of parchment paper, transfer the large pastry circle to a baking sheet (a pizza pan is great if you have one). Refrigerate the rolled-out pastry while preparing the filling.
For the filling
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Wash and rub the peaches to remove any fuzz.
Cut the peaches into ½ inch thick slices, discarding the stem ends and pits, to make about 4 cups
Place slices in a bowl and sprinkle with the sugar; stir gently with a rubber scraper to combine.
With a large spoon, scoop the peach slices and sugar into the centre of the pastry circle, leaving a three inch border of pastry around the peaches. The peaches should be evenly distributed in the centre of the pastry (i.e., not heaped up in the middle).
With your fingertips, gently fold the border of the pastry up and over the peaches, pleating it as necessary. Press down gently on the pleats to make them stick. If you accidentally make any holes in the pastry, pinch the edges together to seal them up.
Beat the remaining egg white with 1 teaspoon of sugar and brush over the pleated pastry border.
Bake the tart in the centre of the oven for about 35 – 45 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown; if it appears to be cooking too quickly, reduce the heat to 375F.
Remove the tart from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Best served within 4 hours of baking but still pretty terrific the next day as well.
Makes one 12 inch tart, serving 8 – 10
I don’t know about your kids, but mine just never, ever get excited about the sight of an apple in their lunch bags. These squares are a great solution to adding a nutritional punch to the daytime menu, especially for people like my daughter who can’t seem to manage a large breakfast. Packable, portable and oh-so-tasty, they’re nice and filling with just enough sweetness to make little (and big) people forget they are also quite healthy, and made without corn syrup or chemicals like some packaged snack items. If apples aren’t a family favourite, try plums, pears or peaches instead. For longer term storage, either put the whole batch in a container or wrap the squares individually, then freeze. The perfect grab-and-go snack!
Line an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Prepare crust by combining ingredients in the order listed above, blending together until evenly crumbly.
Divide crust mixture in half; pour one half into the prepared baking pan. With your fingers or a spatula, spread to form an even layer, pressing down firmly.
Bake bottom crust for 12 minutes.
While crust is baking, combine fruit filling ingredients in the order given. Set aside.
After bottom crust has baked, pour apple mixture over top, using a spoon to distribute evenly.
Sprinkle remaining crumble over top of fruit (it's easiest to do this by hand, rather than with a spoon).
Return the pan to the oven and bake 30 - 35 minutes more, until golden brown on top.
Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then lift the bars out using the parchment paper as handles.
Let cool completely on a wire rack, then cut into xx bars.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for longer storage.
My sister says this dish has magical powers because it caused her kids to say three words together in a sentence for the first time: “I love fish!” I’d have to agree – it’s the perfect dish for both reluctant fish eaters and those (like me) who constantly crave fish. You can easily assemble this recipe in a four-portion casserole dish, but I love to prepare single-serving mini versions as my kids have always liked this presentation format – they find it more "festive" which is a big word in our house. Use any white fish your family likes (or whatever’s on sale) – it’s equally delicious with haddock, sole, cod, tilapia or basa, to name just a few options. Best of all - you can assemble it the night before, refrigerate and pop it the oven for a super-fast weeknight meal.
Preheat oven to 450F.
Grease a 1 litre round baking dish or four smaller ones.
Slice onion and place in casserole dish.
If fish is frozen, thaw it first (you can do this by putting on a plate in the fridge for a few hours or super carefully using the defrost cycle in your microwave) and pat dry with paper towels.
Cut fish into serving portions if necessary and use your finger tips to check them over for bones.
Place fish on top of onions.
Melt the 3 tbsp butter, stir in flour and spread over top of fish.
Crush crackers (put them in a ziplock bag and press down) and put the crumbs in a bowl.
Pour melted butter over top and stir to blend. Spoon crumbs over fish. Top with bacon squares in a single layer.
Cook uncovered for about 20 minutes, until bacon is crispy. Serve with lemon wedges.
Serves 3 - 4 people who love fish, and 10 people who don’t but are willing to try it!