Peach-Pecan Tart with Bourbon Custard

IMG_4151It has been a very busy week or two in our house! Summer is always a busier time for us since we spend it doing all the summery stuff we can… and speaking of “can”, canning is also something we’re usually busy doing in the summer.

Recently, for instance, we celebrated the yearly “festival” I dubbed Peach Madness. Madness seems a bit harsh? Believe me, it’s nothing short of madness. We wake up with the sun on a weekend morning and quickly leave the city behind, heading toward the orchard lands of Southwestern Michigan and Jollay Orchards. There, we surround ourselves with endless acres of trees loaded down with gigantic, Red Haven peaches — quite possibly the best peaches on earth. In a matter of a few minutes, our baskets are filled with about 70 pounds of fuzzy gold.


From there, we dash straight home to place the peaches in a safe place and then wait for the madness to begin. We have to watch the peaches — checking them 2-3 times each day — until they show signs of being at IMG_4171the correct stage of ripeness. Usually within 24 hours (or whenever it’s least convenient) the peaches reach ripeness all at once. Then the madness rushes in and we’re swept into a maddening pace of fruit processing and eating until every last peach is gone.

Within 3 days, we turned 70 pounds of peaches into Canned Peach Quarters, Peach Preserves, Peach Cobbler Conserve, Spiced Peach Butter, and a few bags of sliced peaches for the freezer. Along the way, we usually have managed to eat several of the peaches before they make it into the jam pot! Peaches are probably one of the quintessential tastes of summer for us, so we eat to our hearts’ content, enjoying every bite, knowing that autumn is fast approaching.


Today’s recipe is one I developed just this summer to highlight the taste of fresh peaches. Though they are perfect completely unadorned, here peaches are paired with some famous co-stars: toasted pecans, ground cinnamon, vanilla, and woodsy bourbon.

Let’s Talk Ingredients

Whole Wheat Pastry Flour — Whole wheat pastry flour is whole wheat flour that is ground extra finely so it doesn’t weigh down baked goods the way regular whole wheat flour might. If you don’t mind a slightly denser texture, though, and you can’t find whole wheat pastry flour, feel free to substitute regular whole wheat flour.

Cake Flour — Cake flour is commonly found down the baking aisle right next to the other flours. My favorite brand is King Arthur since they’re currently the only unbleached cake flour I’ve ever found. If you can’t find cake flour or you’d rather not purchase it for this recipe, you can use all-purpose flour by sifting it several times before measuring it out and then removing 2 tablespoons from the cup you’ve measured. This substitution for cake flour works in most recipes except for very delicate cakes, by the way.

Lemon Zest — Lemon zest is the oily outer layer of the lemon peel. Lots of recipes use grated lemon zest, but here you’ll need to peel a thin strip about 1/4-inch wide and the length of the circumference of a medium lemon rather than grating the zest (since the zest needs to be removed). Remember not to include the white, pithy part of the lemon peel; it’s bitter.

Vanilla Paste — This IMG_4138is a syrup made from vanilla extract which is then combined with pulp from vanilla beans. When you mix vanilla paste into whipped cream, cookies, or just about anything, you not only get extra vanilla flavor, you get that gourmet appearance of vanilla beans which heightens the overall presentation — all without having to split and scrape the vanilla beans yourself. If you can’t find vanilla paste, the same amount of a high quality vanilla extract will do just fine in its place. (I buy all of my vanilla beans, vanilla extract, and vanilla paste here.)

Bourbon — Bourbon is a completely American invention — a Kentucky invention to be precise, though it is made in many places in the US, these days. It has a very strong taste, depending on the maker, and is at once sweet, woodsy, and smoky. In this recipe, it helps meld the peaches to the pecans even though much of the alcohol taste is cooked away.

Peaches — We used fresh-picked Red Haven peaches for this recipe, but you could use any yellow, freestone peach you have available locally. Late Summer is peach season — so get them while you can! Peaches continue to ripen after they’re picked, so it’s important to identify the perfect candidates for your tart. Peaches are perfectly ripe when they’re slightly soft and yielding to the touch. Peaches that are too soft will be tasty but will be hard to peel! If they are firm and slightly yellowish-green near the stem end they are not ripe. Basically, you want “Goldilocks” peaches — peaches that are “just right”.

Method to the Madness

If you’ve never made a tart before, you might assume it’s a complicated procedure — especially given its resemblance to pie. However, tart dough is much more forgiving than pie dough, so you’ll likely find it far easier than you thought. My advice would be to mix the dough and cook the custard one afternoon and then finish the tart the next afternoon; dividing the work into manageable parts makes the process even easier.

IMG_4158 IMG_4162

The tart dough comes together easily without the use of a mixer or food processor — just you, a whisk, and some elbow grease! Because of the particular ingredients, the texture of the dough will be soft and pliable (like Play-Doh) and not sticky, so it’s very easy to handle and will only need a light dusting of flour. Unlike pie crust — which can get very tough and unpleasant if it’s handled too much — the tart dough can IMG_4160take a bit of a pounding from you (no need to get carried away, though!) and still have a tender, slightly-flaky texture. An added bonus: a lattice-style top crust looks impressive… but you don’t have to tell everyone how easy it was.

Making the custard is much like making a classic pudding. The most important step lies in pouring the scalded milk mixture into the beaten egg mixture. If not done gradually, the heat of the milk will scramble the eggs and the custard will be officially ruined. So, be sure to gradually pour the milk mixture into the egg mixture while whisking. Remember that the custard will finish thickening as it cools, so only heat it until it coats the spoon (the custard will undergo further cooking when it bakes with the tart, so you don’t want to overcook it).

Peach-Pecan Tart

with Bourbon Custard

A Tales of Thyme & Place Original
Serves 8-12

    Tart Crust:
    1 large egg
    2 egg yolks
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into large pieces, softened
    2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
    1 cup cake flour (unbleached preferred)

    Bourbon Custard:
    3 egg yolks
    1/4 cup granulated sugar
    2 tablespoons cornstarch
    1 cup whole milk
    1 large lemon zest strip
    1/2 tablespoon vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)
    1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon
    1 pinch salt

    Peach & Pecan Filling:
    1 1/4 pounds peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
    1/4 cup granulated sugar
    1 tablespoon bourbon
    1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted, divided
    3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

    To make the tart crust, in a large bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks, sugar, and salt; whisk until mixture turns a light yellow. Continuing to whisk, add the softened butter pieces one at a time, whisking until combined. With a wooden spoon, gradually work in the whole wheat pastry flour and then the cake flour until a smooth dough forms. Divide the dough into two pieces — one a bit larger than the other. Form each piece into a disk and cover with plastic wrap; chill for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

    Meanwhile, make the custard. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until mixture is a pale yellow. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, lemon zest, vanilla paste, bourbon, and salt; heat over low-medium heat until bubbles form around the edge of the mixture. Remove pan from heat and remove the lemon zest. While whisking, pour the milk mixture very slowly into the egg mixture. Once combined, pour the mixture into the saucepan and return it to low-medium heat. Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon (7-10 minutes). Pour the custard into a bowl, cover the surface of the custard with plastic wrap (to prevent a skin from forming), cover the bowl; refrigerate 2 to 24 hours.

    Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Remove the tart dough disks from the refrigerator and allow to stand at room temperature for about 5-10 minutes to soften slightly. Butter and flour a 9-, 10-, or 11-inch removable bottom tart pan. Press the larger dough disk into the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan. Pour the bourbon custard into the bottom of the tart crust; spread evenly.

    To make the fruit filling, in a medium bowl combine the sliced peaches, sugar, bourbon, lemon juice, and cinnamon. Allow the mixture to stand for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, take 2 tablespoons of the toasted chopped pecans and chop them very finely; set aside. Stir the remaining chopped pecans and the all-purpose flour into the peach mixture. Spoon the peach mixture evenly over the bourbon custard.

    Place the remaining tart dough disk on a lightly floured surface. Press or roll the dough into a 9-inch circle (or the size that matches your tart pan). Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into strips about 1/2-inch wide. Arrange the dough strips atop the peach filling in a lattice pattern. Once assembled, press the strips to the tart pan edge to remove excess dough. If desired, brush the top of the tart with an egg wash or half and half; sprinkle with the reserved finely chopped pecans. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes to an hour or until golden brown. Place on a wire rack to cool completely, refrigerate until chilled. Serve chilled. Store the leftovers loosely covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


While I know firsthand how tempting it is to slice right into this tart immediately after removing it from the oven or after waiting for what seems like an eternity for it to reach room temperature, allowing it to chill in the refrigerator will heighten the sweetness and fruitiness of the filling. You’ll be delighted to discover the tart is not overly sweet — allowing the fruity and nutty flavors to shine through. A slice is excellent served with your weekend cup of coffee following a hearty brunch or as a summery, elegant ending to dinner.


~ by Jason on August 30, 2011.

8 Responses to “Peach-Pecan Tart with Bourbon Custard”

  1. Please tell me you have leftovers that you are bringing to me at work right now. YUM!

    • Sadly, you just missed the tart. 😦 But I’m sure it will make appearances in the future, so I’ll be sure to let you know. 🙂

  2. Those peaches make my mouth water ….. How much are they a #.
    I can’t wait to taste….
    Love mom

  3. Is a tart pan the only kind you would recommend for this? I have a springform and a pie pan but not a tart and I’m curious how it might do in something else.

    • Hi Emily. What a coincidence! While writing this entry I almost suggested that an alternative to the tart pan might be a pie pan because I’ve heard of other folks doing that… but I thought better of it since I’ve never actually tried that myself and I’m not so bold to give advice without the experience to back it up.

      That little warning aside, though, I think you could use a pie pan provided that you don’t press the dough all the way up the sides of the pan. Pressing it all the way up the sides would definitely cause the crust to be stretched too thin — not to mention the filling isn’t as thick as your typical pie filling would be. So, I’d say maybe press the dough about 1 to 1.5 inches up the sides of the pie pan and then start adding the filling. From there — if the filling is deeper than you thought, you could press the dough up the sides a tiny bit more to accommodate the filling. Using a springform pan would probably work the same way — might even be a better alternative since the sides of the pan are perpendicular like a tart pan’s. Do let me know if you give it a try. It would be helpful to have the mystery solved. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  4. Oh, oh, oh!!!!!! I’m speechless because my mouth is watering right now! That sounds amazing. Oh how I wish I had a peach farm (? is that what they’re called?) near me. I know there are some about 3 or 4 hours away so I know what I have to talk my husband into doing this coming year! Lovely, thank you.

    • I hope you’re able to enjoy this tart, sometime. It’s one of those recipes that has a fancy appearance while actually being quite simple — exactly the kind of thing you need, sometimes.

      Picking peaches is probably one of my favorite things — and it’s so quick and easy since the giant fruits fill up your baskets so quickly (unlike strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries).

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