Coooome and get your farm fresh peaches! We’re nearing the tail end of peach season here in Ontario and I’m as late to the peach party as I am to everything else in life. Punctuality is overrated.
I didn’t take peach season for granted this year, as the weather played a few tricks on us in the early spring and the trees in my neighbourhood didn’t make any peaches at all! When peach trees are dormant, they’re quite tolerant of the cold, but as soon as it warms up and the buds open up, even the tiniest amount of frost threatens the entire season’s fruit production, damaging the key fruit-making parts of the tree. Peach, plum, and apricot trees are very keen in the early spring, taking any sign of warmth as a go-ahead for making flowers. This year the early warmth was a bluff and come August, there were no peaches in sight.
Luckily the best peaches in our area come from the Niagara Peninsula, a little strip of land (not really a peninsula) nestled between two Great Lakes. The temperatures there are moderated the surrounding bodies of water, so it takes a little longer to warm up in the spring, helping the trees stay dormant for just a little bit longer. They also enjoy a slightly extended growing season in the fall, making the region optimal for growing a wide variety of fruit. It is most known for grapes (wine production), of course, but the peaches coming out of this region are more than worthy of their own fame.
I’m completely bias, but Niagara peaches are my favourite. It likely has to do with the fact that they’re picked ripe since they have little distance to travel when sold in Ontario. When the weather co-operates, they blow all the California ones out of the water. I haven’t cooked with them this year, they’re just too good eaten fresh and whole, but I finally decided to make something.
Peaches and corn seem to be buds these days, at least in the online recipe world, and for good reason. While it’s common to see them hanging out together in salads, it’s a little harder to come by a dessert recipe that takes advantage of this unlikely match.
Corn is used two ways in this tart. The tart shell is corn flour based, and the custard is infused with fresh sweet corn. The corn-flavoured custard idea is inspired by one of my favourite ice cream flavours – Jeni’s Sweet Corn and Black Raspberry. I was skeptical at first, not convinced about having my ice cream to taste like corn. But the result was surprising and delicious. To truly enjoy it, you have to submit and let go of any corn-on-the-cob thoughts. Let yourself experience the corn flavour from a fresh perspective and appreciate it in this new form.
- 2 cups of whole milk
- 1 ear of corn, kernels shaved off the cob
- 1/2 - 2/3 cup of sugar (adjust for peach sweetness)
- 1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk (reserved from shell)
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- pinch of salt
- 2 Tbsp. butter, cut into small cubes.
- 1.25 cup corn flour (see note)
- 3 Tbsp. sugar
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1 egg white (reserve the yolk for the custard), whisked until frothy
- a pinch of salt
- 5 - 6 fresh ripe freestone peaches
- Heat the milk in a medium/large pot until its hot and frothy (don't boil it) and drop in the corn kernels and cob. Let the pot sit, covered, for an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F
- Place all of the tart ingredients in a medium bowl and stir until everything is combined. The mixture should be moist and crumbly.
- Press the tart dough into a rectangular tart shell and bake for 15 - 20 minutes, until cooked through and golden. Let it cool completely.
- Strain the milk/corn mixture and return the infused milk back to the pot. Discard the corn.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, corn starch, and salt. Add the eggs and whisk until everything is combined.
- Heat the strained milk until it's hot and frothy. Temper the egg mixture by slowly pouring the hot milk into the bowl, whisking continuously. Once everything is combined, return it back to the pot.
- Rinse the bowl and fit with a fine-mesh strainer.
- Cook the custard on low heat, stirring constantly, until it starts to thicken. Immediately pour the custard into the bowl, over the strainer, and whisk in the butter, until melted and incorporated.
- Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Both the custard and tart can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two.
- When ready to serve, halve, pit, and slice the peaches. Whisk the custard until smooth (do not blend! I made this mistake, resulting in the soupy custard that you see in the pictures).
- Pipe or spoon the custard into the shell and top with peaches. Serve immediately.
Corn flour is not to be confused with corn meal or masa harina. Corn meal is too coarse and masa harina (lime-treated corn) will make your tart taste like a giant taco.