I’ve always been a light sleeper—sensitive not just to things that go bump in the night, and subtle noises from the children’s room—but to things like the breeze shifting directions, stars falling, or one less katydid chirping in the fields outside our bedroom window. I would always wake at these times; identify the origin of the sound, and then settle back to sleep.
It’s different now. The past few years have brought a major shift in my sleeping patterns, and not just because I no longer wake to the sound of a child’s temperature rising. Regardless of my level of weariness, I can’t count on falling to sleep much before eleven or so. And to compound the frustration, if I wake up after I’ve drifted off (and I do, repeatedly), there is no guarantee that I will go back to sleep—at least for an hour or two.
I seem to go in random cycles of sleeping well, or barely sleeping at all. At present, I’m in one of the latter. Oh well, it’s not a perfect world. If it were, I wouldn’t be a ‘morning’ person, even during time of sleep deprivation.
I do put the time spent waiting for sleep to good use—I like to think through the process of things that I am planning—an addition or change to the garden, a dinner-party menu, a creative project, or an up-coming trip. I suppose that the orderly ‘thinking through’ of the steps involved in these things helps distract and lull me back to sleep.
Monday night—really, it was obscenely early yesterday morning—as I was lying in the dark waiting for sleep to return, I started thinking about how I missed my oven. It’s been an extremely warm summer, and I don’t bake often when the temperatures climb above the mid 8o’s. I knew that the following few days were going to cool off a bit, so I began a mental inventory of what was currently residing in my kitchen, begging to be cloaked in pastry or wrapped in sugar, butter and flour.
I thought about the wild blackberries.
I thought about the plump little nectarines.
I remembered the mound of pastry dough tucked away in the freezer, left over from a rich, creamy lemon tart that I’d made for a dinner party in February.
I think I fell asleep to the thought of a beautiful tart made from summer fruit, and in the morning, when the garden chores were all done, I headed back into the kitchen.
(Hellooo, happy little oven! Wonderful to see you, tart pan and rolling pin! I’m so excited that we’re together—we’ve been apart too long!)
It was definitely time well spent, both for the creative process and the resulting tart, which was EVERYTHING I’d hoped it would turn out to be—gorgeous deep-summer colored fruit in a buttery, crumbly shortbread crust, each bite bursting with the perfect blend of lush, dark, berries and the bright–tart sweetness of the nectarines.
And since a little gilding of the lily never hurt anyone, a spoonful or two of homemade vanilla-bean ice cream nestled against the side made for one of those dessert-nirvana moments.
Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night, I think about having a small inn, with just a few tables. I plan the rooms, the gardens, the kitchen and the breakfast and dinner menus (you’re on your own for lunch). This tart will be on the summer dessert menu, although you can have it for breakfast if you’d like—I won’t tell!
Here’s the recipe my friends, and thank you so much for visiting!
Wild Blackberry and Nectarine Tart
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
2 large egg yolks, beaten
2 to 4 tablespoons cream or cold water
Pulse the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor* until it’s combined.
Add the butter and pulse until it makes a coarse meal.
Add the yolks and 2 tablespoons of cream, mixing until the dough just comes together. If the dough is too crumbly, add the remaining cream or water 1/2 tablespoon at a time until it is the right consistency.
Divide the dough in halve, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about an hour While the dough is chilling, mix the ingredients for the filling and set to the side.
4 cups blackberries
4 medium nectarines
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
When the pastry dough is chilled, roll it to a thickness of 1/8 inch on a floured surface. Press it into the bottom and up the sides of a 10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Pierce the bottom and sides with a fork, and trim the edges. Refrigerate the shell until firm, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Pour the filling into the chilled shell, and put it on a baking sheet to catch any spills.
Bake for 40 minutes
Let the tart cool completely before removing it from the pan. It will need to set an additional hour or two before slicing.
*Using a food processor makes this tart crust super simple and fast. You can do just fine without one though, using a pastry fork or two knives