Welcome to Recipe Off-Roading, where the recipe isn’t in charge—you are. In this series of articles, we’re celebrating how cooks take liberties in the kitchen, whether that’s substituting an ingredient, adapting a technique, or doubling the salt (because you’re wild like that). So buckle up and let’s go for a ride.
If you have a knife, bowl, and any sort of pan, you can make our co-founder Amanda Hesser’s peach tart. Actually, scratch that. You don’t even need the bowl. “I've mixed the dough right in the pan,” she writes in the recipe, which published on Food52 in 2011.
The recipe comes by way of Amanda’s mother, Judy, who is famous around these parts for her oven-fried chicken. Of course, like any family recipe passed down from generation to generation, changes were made along the way.
Judy uses all vegetable oil in the crust, Amanda uses half vegetable and half olive. Judy peels her peaches, Amanda does not. Turns out, these little nips and tucks don’t make a difference to this easygoing tart.
“I've made it with apples, apricots, blueberries, and sometimes a mix of fruit,” Amanda told me. “It's a flexible recipe. One that's—kindly—hard to mess up!”
Is that so?
For our Recipe Off-Roading series, I challenged the Food52 community to try. So far, our recipe testers have played around with Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce, Martha Stewart’s One-Pan Pasta, and Maialino’s Olive Oil Cake.
Here’s how they made Amanda’s tart their own. (For the full collection of off-roaded tarts, head here.)
Rethink the peaches.
The original: 3 small ripe peaches (up to 5), pitted and thickly sliced (about 1/2-inch wide)
The findings: When I initially presented this off-roading challenge, it was April, months before peak peach season. So what are off-roaders to do? Many of them used thawed frozen peaches. Some used canned. Meanwhile, plenty of others ditched the peaches altogether. In their place: plums and bourbon-soaked cherries, rhubarb and crystallized ginger, roasted strawberries, guava, and more.
Change the oil in the crust.
The original: ¼ cup vegetable or canola oil, plus ¼ cup mild olive oil.
The findings: Some off-roaders took a cue from Judy and returned to an all-canola crust. Others swapped in more flavorful butter. And several people opted for avocado oil. How about that!
Or the extract in the crust.
The original: ½ teaspoon almond extract.
The findings: Almonds and peaches adore each other, but that didn’t stop our recipe rebels from changing up this component. Vanilla extract was a natural (and common) swap. More unexpected variations included: substituting bitters, adding balsamic vinegar, and really leaning in to that almondy flavor with literal almonds.
Actually, change whatever you want in the crust.
The original: 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour. No additional flavorings.
The findings: All-purpose flour is reliable as heck, but doesn’t offer much in the flavor department. Which is probably why you all were interested in the likes of nutty rye and earthy buckwheat. Others played around with aromatics and nuts—say, rosemary and walnuts.
Futz with the streusel.
The original: 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons butter.
The findings: Like the crust, the streusel in this recipe is ready for anything. Why not add oats? Or bring in brown sugar and crystallized ginger? Or skip the streusel altogether? All work.
The original: None!
The findings: Spices may just be the simplest way to put your own spin on any dessert recipe. In this case, off-roaders loved cinnamon, star anise, and ginger, cardamom (a few of you on this one!), and “Georgia peach spice”, or a mix of ground ginger, cinnamon, and lemon peel.
Cater to a certain diet.
The original: Full of gluten and dairy, though no meat!
The findings: Like our other experiments in the series, off-roaders took this opportunity to make an otherwise off-limits recipe possible for a loved one to eat. Talk about thoughtful. A couple folks made Amanda’s tart gluten-free, and one made it vegan (bye, dairy milk).
The original: Um, no cheese.
The findings: I like the way you all think: If there’s no cheese, well, why not? And how can we fix this? Plenty of ways! A couple of you turned to sweet-milky mascarpone, while other off-roaders called in Brie and cream cheese.
Okay, add anything.
The original: Crust, peaches, streusel.
The findings: Frangipane was a popular addition (and yes, please, does that sound delicious)—both in classic almond, as well as pistachio. I’m also wide-eyed over this brown sugar–miso glaze.
Change the shape.
The original: 11-inch round tart.
The findings: As Amanda encouraged in the recipe’s headnote: Think outside the pan. And did you ever. Some ditched the circle and turned this tart into a cutie rectangle. Others skipped the pan altogether and went free-form—either in an oversized galette or mini hand pies.