I loooove puff pastry. From the freezer section, I mean. Not sure I’d enjoy making it from scratch-all those thin layers of dough, not to mention all the buttering and folding, and washing and drying. Wait-that’s the laundry. But the buttering and folding of scratch puff pastry can involve as many as 80 layers, which is about 78 too many in my opinion. Thankfully you can just pick up a box from the grocery store, thaw it, glob some stuff on it, and look like a pastry rockstar.
If you’ve never used puff pastry, it looks pretty much like a hard, flat, thin piece of frozen dough-in the beginning. In the oven it inflates into glorious, crispy, puffiness thanks to the power of steam from the evaporated water between all those buttered layers. So if you open the oven door during baking, the steam escapes and you just have pastry, without the puff. Peek through the window, don’t open the door.
Puff pastry thaws fairly quickly. The box says up to 40 minutes, but unless your kitchen is pretty cold, it will probably be less. The thing is, this stuff is a little finicky about temperature. In order for the butter in it to stay solid until baking time (so it can melt and we can get steam and yada, yada, yada), it can’t get super warm. If it’s taking you awhile to make this-maybe you’ve never worked with puff pastry or you just like to take it slow with unfamiliar recipes-at any time you can pop it in your fridge until you’re ready for the next step. If it’s super warm in your kitchen you can even stick the baking sheet with the dough on it back in the freezer for a bit. Once puff pastry has thawed, it needs to be used, or you can kiss the “puff” part goodbye.
But, but, but…we don’t really want the very middle of our pastry to puff up (I know! I’ve been telling you everything to do to makes sure it puffs! Don’t you just hate it when people are wishy-washy?) because we’re gonna load it up with cream cheese and peaches, and they’d just slide off during baking if that part got all puffy, too. Fortunately, there’s a little trick to make it puff where you want, and not puff where you don’t. Score a line on the edge of the pastry around the part you do not want to puff. This is just scoring, not cutting clear through the pastry. Take a fork and very gently prick the pastry inside of the score lines. All of that part you just pricked-inside the scored part-will not puff. It’ll just be a wonderful little bed for your pastry toppings, while the part outside the lines will puff up, up, up.
While the title doesn’t reflect it, there’s a layer of cream cheese (and a little sugar and cinnamon, and a dash of nutmeg) for your peaches to nestle on. The peaches I had were very ripe and juicy, so after peeling and slicing (you can chop the peaches if you prefer-mine were small so the slices weren’t very big) I placed them on some paper toweling to absorb some of the juice. I didn’t want my tarts to be super soggy (the cream cheese layer helps to prevent this, too) and I knew I’d be adding a bit of lemon juice to help with color retention, so some blotting was necessary. If your peaches aren’t as juicy you can skip this.
As you can see, I didn’t stay perfectly inside the lines (story of my life). No worries-just do your best. Also forgot to take a photo of the sugar on the edges of the pastry. In my defense, it was a Monday. But sugar did get on there. And it’s under the peaches, too. Really. I think I missed lunch that day, so I was probably low on energy and brain cells.
Did I mention you need a rimmed baking sheet? Juicy peaches can be a little messy. A couple of my tarts had some distinctly “unpuffy” spots where the peach juices ran over and messed them up looks-wise, but I assure you they were still delicious. Juicy peaches are the best.
In case you’re wondering, these peaches are local, Kansas-grown peaches from Meadowlark Farm near Rose Hill. (Not an ad-I don’t know them, but just like in my Cashew Chicken Salad post I will periodically highlight Kansas products and places I use/visit.) My son lives about 3 miles from this orchard and he picked the peaches. They’re sweet and juicy freestone peaches, and we’ve enjoyed them in baked goods as well as for snacks.
I love the taste of almond paired with stone fruits, but not everyone in my household is as enthusiastic about it as I am. So I kept my icing drizzle and my sprinkle of sliced almonds to a minimum. There will literally only be a teaspoon or so of icing per tart. If you want to omit it entirely you can or you can increase it if you want more. If you want a little icing but don’t like almond flavoring, change it up with vanilla and omit the nuts. A dusting of powdered sugar just before serving would be pretty-and simple-as well.
Although I’ve placed the servings at 9 here (3 per tart), you could easily cut these into smaller pieces if you’re serving them on say, a buffet, or at a brunch where there are several choices. Not a brunch where I’m invited, because I need a big piece. The easiest way to cut these with minimal crumbs? A pizza cutter. The tarts taste best the same day you make them. Baked puff pastry does not improve with refrigeration. If you have leftovers they will still be tasty, but definitely not as crispy, after a night in the fridge. You can reheat in the microwave (they will not be crispy at all) or on a baking sheet in the toaster oven or regular oven (the puffed edges can be crisped this way). Oh, and what about the other puff pastry sheet that was in the box? I think after you taste these you’ll probably know what to do with it.
Peach Puff Pastry Tarts
- FOR PASTRY:
- 1 sheet of puff pastry from a 17.3 oz. package
- 3 oz. cream cheese, slightly softened
- 2 Tbs. sugar
- ¼ tsp. cinnamon
- dash or two of nutmeg
- 1 c. peeled, thinly sliced or chopped fresh, ripe peaches
- Couple squeezes of lemon juice
- Egg wash (1 egg beaten with a tablespoon of water)
- Additional sugar for sprinkling edge of pastries
- FOR ICING:
- ¼ c. powdered sugar
- 1-2 tsp. milk
- ¼ tsp. almond extract
- 1 Tbs. sliced almonds
- Step 1 Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Have a large, rimmed baking sheet ready.
- Step 2 Remove one puff pastry sheet from box and let sit at room temperature to thaw, about 25-30 minutes. Keep the other sheet in the box in the freezer for another use.
- Step 3 While pastry is thawing, combine the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Step 4 Slice peaches. If they are extremely juicy, put them on several paper towels to blot some of the juice. Return to the measuring cup and squeeze a little lemon juice on them.
- Step 5 On a large cutting board or your countertop, lay out some parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Place the thawed puff pastry on the parchment and unfold it. With a sharp knife, cut the puff pastry at each fold so you have 3 long pieces.
- Step 6 With a floured rolling pin, roll each piece so the short side is about 1 inch longer. (It was about 3 inches long, now it will be about 4 inches long.)
- Step 7 With a sharp knife, score (do NOT cut entirely through the pastry) a line all the way around each pastry, about 1 inch in from the edge (see photos). Use a fork to lightly prick (don’t poke deep holes) inside the score lines. Transfer the pastries on the parchment or silicone mat to the baking sheet.
- Step 8 Spread 1 ounce of cream cheese inside the score lines of each pastry. It doesn’t have to be exact, just try to get most of the inside of the scored area covered.
- Step 9 Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the cream cheese on each pastry, a little over 2 teaspoons per pastry. Spread the peaches over the sugar and cream cheese (inside the scored area) on each pastry. Just eyeball it- I didn’t measure out the peaches exactly.
- Step 10 Use a pastry brush to paint egg wash around the edges of each pastry, outside the score lines. Sprinkle some sugar over the edges.
- Step 11 Bake for 15-18 minutes. Edges should puff up and pastry will be golden brown. Resist the urge to open the oven during baking if you want your pastry to puff as much as possible.
- Step 12 Cool on a wire rack 20-25 minutes.
- Step 13 Make the icing by whisking the powdered sugar, milk, and almond extract in a small bowl. Drizzle a small amount over each tart and sprinkle with a few sliced almonds. Cut and serve warm or at room temperature. Tarts taste best the day they are made, but may be refrigerated for the next day. Gently reheat in microwave (they won’t be crisp) or a toaster oven.