When faced with the bounty of summer produce, it's no wonder that bakers turn to flaky pastry as a showcase for their farmers-market haul—from cherry and blueberry pie to rustic galettes, whether peach or pear.
The allure of a bubbly fruit filling bound by a crisp and buttery crust requires no explanation, especially when it's served à la mode. But on certain occasions, I prefer to keep my fresh fruits fresh, preserving their delicate texture instead of cooking them down in a hot oven. I'm especially protective of fragile baby raspberries, wild blueberries, and fresh-picked cherries still warm from the sun—fruits so juicy and ripe that baking them almost feels like a crime.
That doesn't mean giving up on a flaky-pastry partnership; only that the concept could use a little reformatting. The most classic move would be to make a French fruit tart, a shell of pâte sucrée filled with pastry or diplomat cream and topped with fresh fruit glazed with apricot jam. But I like to take a more casual, customizable approach, topping a sheet of flaky pie crust with some sort of flavored whipped cream or spread and a handful of perfect fruit.
It's a lot less fussy than forming individual tart shells, or even blind-baking a large one, and the format makes it easy to feed a crowd without using plates and forks—a major boon for picnics and barbecues. Plus, the single sheet of dough bakes much faster than a pie, tart, or galette, so I can be in and out of the oven and able to shut it off in record time.
I start with a half batch of my old-fashioned, all-butter pastry crust or gluten-free pie dough, but feel free to use whatever dough recipe you like.
The idea is to roll the dough into a roughly 9- by 13-inch rectangle, then dock, sprinkle with sugar, and bake until it's golden brown and crisp. (A docking tool, one of my essential baking tools, makes it super fast and easy to prick the dough full of holes for venting steam, but a fork and some patience will also do the trick.)
Once the crust has cooled down to room temperature, it can be used right away to assemble the tart, or wrapped in plastic and held for a day or two at room temperature. In the latter case, popping it in a 350°F (180°C) oven for a few minutes will crisp it back up.
Step two: Cover the tart with something rich, creamy, and delicious. Here, I've used an assortment of spreads, like pistachio cream, whipped Greek yogurt, and crispy caramelized-hazelnut spread, but the options are near limitless and can be tailored to the fruit you have on hand.
For example: raspberry whipped cream with tender slices of nectarine, Lemon Chantilly with strawberries, Cherry Pit Whipped Cream with cherries, or sweet Homemade Cool Whip with bright-red currants.
And, when nothing else is in season, there's always Cajeta Whipped Cream with slices of banana (bonus points if you sprinkle the banana slices with sugar and hit them with a blowtorch).
If you'd like a sauce for drizzling, or for giving the fruit a glossy coat, my fresh-fruit syrup for ice cream makes a bang-up glaze, for this or any other dessert.
The elements can be as easy or complex as you're inclined to tackle, whether that means going all out to make the Homemade Pistachio Paste required for a nutty green chantilly, or falling back on the simplicity of a lightly sweetened whipped cream.
Whatever you dream up, the combination of a crisp and flaky crust with a cool and creamy filling, dotted with tart bursts of fresh fruit, will be wonderfully refreshing on a hot summer day.