When it came to my turn to choose a recipe for Project Pastry Queen, the task wasn’t an easy one.  Though, I felt drawn to this recipe.  See, when I was a little kid, I used to tan beautifully in the summer.  Golden brown skin and never a sunburn, thanks to my Italian heritage.  Things are different these days since my Irish heritage seems to have taken my skin hostage, leaving me lily white each summer due to the massive amounts of sunscreen I need to use.  Nonetheless, my mom used to call me “peaches ‘n cream,” a nickname I hold close to my heart.  So naturally, the Fredericksburg Peach Cream Cheese Tart was the perfect recipe for me to choose.

Goodness how happy I am that I chose this recipe.  Peaches are finally in full swing here in CT and I took a special trip up to a farm stand today just to pick up a few.  I couldn’t, in good conscience, use grocery store peaches that are shipped in from either Georgia or California for this dessert.  Not when I could get local ones.  Plus, my farm stand trip gave me a good excuse to day a drive on this A+ summer day on some beautiful back country roads.

In short, we l.o.v.e.d this tart!!  The cream evokes a feeling that you’re eating peachy cheesecake and while I thought cinnamon-sugar coated peaches would be too sweet of a complement to the cream filling, I was wrong.  They are the perfect topping to these pretty tarts.  I think what I’m most excited about (aside from eating them, of course) is that even though I halved the recipe (full recipe below), I was able to freeze enough leftover dough to make another four little tarts come apple season.  Score!

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Fredericksburg Peach Cream Cheese Tart
source: adapted from The Pastry Queen, by Rebecca Rather

If you’d like to make individual tarts (six 4-inch tarts) rather than one large one, simply roll out the dough and cut out rounds to fit your tart pans.  I would recommend slicing the peaches into 1/4-inch slices and arranging them on top of the filling, then sprinkle them with the fruit topping.  The weight of the peach halves will be too heavy for the smaller tarts and it will cause the filling to overflow the sides of the pans.  Bake the tarts for 25 – 30 minutes before checking for doneness – they may need more time – the centers should be mostly firm (like a cheesecake) to the touch and the edges should be lightly browned.

Ingredients:

For the Lemon Zest Tart Crust:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon zest, preferably organic
  • 2/3 cup (11 tbsp) chilled unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup chilled heavy whipping cream (more as needed)

For the Cheese Filling:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the Fruit Topping:

  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5-6 large peaches, pears, or apples

For the Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup apricot jam
  • 3 tbsp brandy
  • 3 tbsp water

Instructions:

To Make the Tart Crust:

  1. Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the flour, salt, sugar, and lemon zest in a large bowl on low speed about 30 seconds.  Cut the chilled butter into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the butter to the flour mixture and combine on low speed about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, until the mixture looks crumbly, with bits of dough the size of dried peas.
  2. Whisk the egg with the cream and add to the flour mixture, mixing on low speed until the dough is just combined.  Continue mixing for 10 seconds longer.  If the dough is too dry to form a ball, add more cream, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Gently mold the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  3. Roll the dough out to 1/8-inch thickness on a generously floured flat surface.  Fold it over the rolling pin and gently transfer the dough to a 10-inch tart pan.  Press it lightly into place.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

To Make the Filling:

  1. Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl on medium speed until fluffy.  Add the mascarpone and vanilla and beat on medium speed until combined.  Add the eggs and beat on medium-high for about 1 minute.  Add the flour and salt; mix on low speed until combined. Spoon the cream cheese mixture into the unbaked tart crust.

To Make the Fruit Topping:

  1. In a medium bowl, stir the cinnamon and sugar together until combined.  Peel and pit the peaches, or peel and core the apples or pears, and cut them in half.  Score the outside of each half diagonally from top to bottom, starting at the top left corner and making 3 evenly spaced lines ending at the bottom right corner.  (Score only 7 halves.  The remaining fruit will be diced later.)  Repeat with three scores, starting at the top right corner and extending to the bottom left.
  2. Coat the fruit in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Arrange 6 halves around the outer edge of the pie.  Place the seventh half in the center.
  3. Cut the remaining fruit in 1/2-inch dice and coat with the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Spoon the diced fruit into the spaces between the fruit halves so that the cream cheese filling is completely covered.
  4. Bake tart for 50 to 55 minutes.

To Make the Glaze:

  1. About 10 minutes before the tart is finished baking, stir the apricot jam, brandy, and water together in a small saucepan set over medium heat.  Continue heating until the mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.
  2. Remove the tart from the oven and brush the glaze over the top.  let cool at least 1 hour before serving.  When completely cool, this tart may be tightly covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days.  Serve at room temperature.

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