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Two Pals and One Pan

Friends come in all shapes and sizes.

Sometimes, they even come bearing sleek rectangular tart pans with a grin.

That would be Lisa H.

It’s often said that making friends is harder to do later in life. We have no time, we have less patience, we have too many other friends already, and we get too set in our ways to accommodate newcomers of any sort.

I never expected blogging to throw open wide the doorway to new friendships in this phase of my life. But it certainly has. As a consequence of posting about food and family for these past three years, I’ve made quite a few new friends who have grown fond and dear. Ones who have opened their home to me for dinner. Ones who have hiked with me on lazy afternoons. Ones who have lent untold moral support in my new endeavors. And ones who have opened their vast pantry to me, knowing my predilection for baking.

The latter would be Lisa H.

A regular reader of my blog, Lisa H. would often send fun comments about my posts. She’d also thoughtfully send story tips and job listings my way.

Yet, we had never met. Not until late last year.

She was moving out of the Bay Area. As a result, she was cleaning out her house, and specifically, her kitchen that held a trove of specialty baking pans from classes she had taken long ago. Would I want any of them, she asked in an email, since she planned to donate them before relocating.

Her new place just didn’t have the space for them. And truth be told, my compact kitchen was already stuffed. Are you sure, she asked again. She went so far as to name some of the gems she was parting with, dangling them temptingly until I felt my resolve give way.

You see, included in her stash was a narrow, rectangular, removable-bottom tart pan, which I’ve always coveted but could never justify buying for myself. I’d so often see recipes in glossy magazines or cookbooks for beautiful sweet and savory tarts baked in this long pan with the pretty fluted edge all the way around. But there’s need, and then there’s need. And in this uncertain economy, I just didn’t have to have one, if you know what I mean.

Upon hearing this, Lisa insisted on bequeathing hers to me.  We met for coffee. She came with her tart pan and I came bearing homemade cookies in gratitude. We talked for hours. About our lives, about our aspirations. Past, present and future.

Every time I pull out that pan now, I can’t help but consider the woman behind it.

Whenever I bake something in it, I want to be sure it does this pan justice. This gorgeous “Nectarine and Raspberry Tart” from “Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts” (Clarkson Potter) definitely does so.  The book, of which I received a review copy, is by the editors of Martha Stewart Living. It contains 150 recipes for all manner of tantalizing sweet and savory pies and tarts.

This particular tart is piled high with fresh summer nectarines and raspberries. The fruit sits atop a creamy cheesecake-like filling of creme fraiche and cream cheese that’s smeared into a baked crust that has a pleasing crunch from cornmeal.

The crust is a little hard to work with. When you roll it out, it will have a tendency to crack and fall apart a bit as you maneuver it into the tart pan. But have no fear. Just patch any holes with dough remnants and no one will be the wiser once it’s baked.

This is a showy dessert that looks like you paid big bucks for it from a fancy French patisserie.

Who would have guessed it was made in a used pan? And one worth far more than a spanking brand-new one ever could be.

Nectarine and Raspberry Tart

(Makes one 14-by-4-inch tart)

For the crust:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1/3 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground

1/2 teaspoon salt

Vegetable-oil cooking spray

For the filling:

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup creme fraiche

1 1/2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

3 ripe nectarines, halved, pits removed, cut into 1/2-inch slices

1 cup raspberries

For the glaze:

1/4 cup apricot jam

Make the crust: With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add yolks, and mix just to combine. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, and salt, and add to yolk mixture; mix just until dough comes together. Press dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour.

Coat a 14-by-4-inch rectangular fluted tart pan with cooking spray. On a lightly floured piece of parchment, roll out dough 1/8 inch thick. Fit dough into pan, and trim excess dough flush with rim. Refrigerate or freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center. Pierce bottom of shell all over with a fork, and bake until crust begins to color, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Unmold crust.

Make the filling: With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add creme fraiche and confectioners’ sugar, and beat until mixture is smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Spread filling into cooled crust, and arrange fruit on top, pressing in slightly.

Make the glaze: Heat jam in a small saucepan over low until loose. Strain through a sieve, and brush warm glaze over raspberries and nectarines. Refrigerate tart up to a few hours if not serving right away.

From “Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts” from the editors of Martha Stewart Living

More From that Martha Stewart Cookbook: Strawberry Galette with Basil Whipped Cream

More Nectarine Desserts: David Lebovitz’s Nectarine-Frangipane Galette

And: Stone Fruit Tea Cake