Here's a weekend recipe to savor on a long late summer afternoon, loaded with the flavors of this brief season halfway between summer and fall. Tangy peaches in a delicate custard infused with thyme are baked in a hearty golden shell of polenta pastry - crispy on the edges and tender in the middle. The custard rolls over the peaches like cream and the whole thing has just the right amount of sweetness - a touch or two to play up the peaches' fragrance, but no more.
It's a leisurely production, this tart, but oh so worth it. We had the last piece for breakfast, chilled from the fridge, and liked it even more.
Peach and Thyme Polenta Tart 1 9-inch tart
Polenta Pastry Shell 1 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 cup polenta (cornmeal) 1/4 cup white sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt 2/3 cup butter (11 tablespoons), chilled and diced 1 egg, beaten
Filling 1 cup heavy whipping cream 10 fresh thyme sprigs 1 lemon 3 egg yolks 1/4 cup sugar Pinch of salt 2 large firm-ripe peaches, pitted and cut into very thin slices
Mix the flour, polenta, salt and sugar. Using your fingers or a food processor, work the flour mixture into the butter until the texture is coarse and crumbly, like small peas. Mix in the egg. Mix lightly until smooth, then form into a disk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the yellow peel from the lemon, trying to avoid the white pith. Bring the cream to a simmer, then remove from the heat. Add the thyme sprigs and lemon peel. Cover and steep for 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 400°F. When the dough has chilled, work into a greased 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Let it rest for a few minutes, then bake for about 8 minutes or just until golden. Let cool. Lower the oven heat to 325°F.
Strain the cream and discard the thyme and lemon peel. Whisk in the egg yolks, sugar and pinch of salt.
Take the remaining 5 sprigs of thyme, and using your index finger and thumb, peel off the tiny leaves. Mix with the cornmeal and sugar. Add a splash of water and mix until loose and crumbly.
Starting from the center, arrange the peach slices in an overlapping pattern in the baked tart shell. Pour the prepared custard over them and sprinkle the top with the cornmeal and thyme mixture. Bake at 325°F for about 35-40 minutes or until the peaches are tender and custard is set and slightly browned. Let cool and set for at least an hour before slicing.