Free-Form Fruit Tarts

Makes 1 tart

These fruit tarts may be formed into shapes of all types and sizes, from peach- or pear-shaped to rectangles. Fruit fillings are usually uncooked, but cooked fillings may be used as well if not runny.

Ingredients

1 unbaked pie crust, may be store-bought

2 to 3 cups peaches, blueberries or raspberries

1/4 to 1/2 cup light brown or dark brown sugar

1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (optional)

Chopped mint or lemon balm

Directions

Roll out the dough to about 1?8-inch thick on a floured surface. Put your rolling pin lightly on the dough and roll the dough over the pin for moving; move to a rimmed baking sheet and gently unfold the dough onto the baking sheet. Cut out the design of your choice, either by hand or with a pattern. I usually do a round, but other shapes work equally well.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Slice and arrange the fruit in the form, overlapping them slightly to account for shrinkage, either in a spiral, vertical rows or in a pattern. Sprinkle with lemon juice if using and sugar to taste. Cut off any excess pie crust or fold up 1/4 inch all around to make a little rim.

Bake 20 to 30 minutes, or until the fruit is soft. Sprinkle with chopped mint or lemon balm.

Serve lukewarm or at room temperature.

Variations

Sprinkle the fruit with finely chopped ginger.

Spread a custard or other base under the fruit. Prebake crust completely, top with the custard or other base as desired, and lightly arrange uncooked fresh fruit onto the crust. Glaze with sugar as above.

To prebake the pie crust if desired: Fill the chilled form with crumpled parchment paper, waxed paper, and rice or beans, then bake for 20 minutes. Scoop out rice or beans and remove paper.

Nathalie Dupree is the author of 13 cookbooks, most recently the James Beard award-winning "Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking." She lives in Charleston and may be reached through Nathaliedupree.com.