French Peach Tart

The best peaches in the world grow in the high desert of Western Colorado. As the Colorado River snakes along the barren foothills at the base of the rock-sheeted Bookcliffs, an Eden-like valley extends from Palisade to Fruita. There, hot, arid days, cool nights and mountainside winter protection create an ideal spot for vines and stone fruit.

The vines came fist when early Seventh Day Adventists planted vineyards for “medicinal” juices. Prohibition knocked the domestic wine business out of play, and the Grand Valley filled with peach, pear, apricot and apple orchards. In the Colorado peach heyday of the 1940s and 50s, Union Pacific trains stopped at big platforms where tons of peaches, each wrapped in tissue paper and nestled in rectangular wooden 20-pound lug boxes, were loaded and moved to Eastern markets. Fickle weather and the power of California agribusiness pushed the fledgling Colorado peach industry out of the competitive national nest, but peaches delicious enough to encourage a trip still flourish in the valley.

I grew up with these peaches. We had tree-ripened peaches from July through September, then canned peaches the rest of the year. I never tired of them, and for the rest of my life away from the valley, I’ve found a few that are tasty, though none match the perfection of a Palisade peach.

Each summer I envision a French peach tart with a crisp buttery crust, intense peach flavor and a blushing glaze. All too often the crust is soggy and the peaches lack flavor, but the following recipe offers a well-tested formula. This season our peach tarts using Michigan fruit have been lovely.

French Peach Tart

1 ¼ cups scooped, leveled all purpose flour (6 oz.)

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 stick cold unsalted butter (4 oz.)

2 tablespoons ice water

1 ½-2 pounds ripe fresh peaches

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons apricot jam or apple jelly

2 teaspoons honey

Make pastry: Sift flour, sugar and salt into wide bowl. Slice in cold butter and work quickly with fingers to flaky crumble. Remove ½ cup of crumble and set aside. Fork ice water into remaining crumble and draw together into ball of dough. Shape into inch-thick disk (4 inches by 1 inch), wrap and chill at least an hour.

Roll pastry and fit into 9-inch glass pie plate or tart tin. Trim and flute edge; chill 1 hour or place in freezer 10 minutes. (To prevent shrinking, pastry must have time to relax before baking.)

If peaches are fully ripe, skins will pull off easily. Otherwise scald in boiling water a few seconds before peeling. (If peaches have a thin, rosy, fuzz-free skin, they do not need peeling.) Halve fruit, remove pits, cut each half into 6 or 8 even crescent segments. Preheat oven to 375° for glass dish or 400° for a metal tin. Sprinkle reserved pastry crumble in bottom of rolled, chilled pie shell (this will thicken peach juice and prevent soggy pastry) and arrange peach slices close together in neat concentric circles on top of crumble. Make one layer only. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar and bake for 35-40 minutes. Crust should be nicely browned and peaches tender.

Boil jam or jelly plus honey to a glaze. Brush or spoon hot glaze over hot peaches as soon as tart is removed from oven. Serves 6-8.

Mary Jo’s cookbook is available at


One Response to “French Peach Tart”

  1. mjcuisine Says:
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    Thank you once more, Mary Jo. The California peaches are delicious this year, and I will be making this tart.

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