This Peach Tart Recipe Came Straight From a Michelin-Starred French Restaurant
How chef Melissa Catra stays true to her roots through pastry
Growing up in Miami, Melissa Catra often frequented the Cuban bakeries in her neighborhood, not knowing that one day she’d be a decorated chef in two of Miami’s famed French restaurants, Le Jardinier and L’Atelier.
“There weren’t a lot of French bakeries when I was growing up,” she tells InsideHook. “I spent my time in a lot of Cuban bakeries like Karla Bakery in Kendall, where I used to go with my cousins to order Cuban bread and pastelitos.”
Catra’s father was also an early inspiration for her baking career — she watched her father bake pastries and cakes in their family home, which helped her decide to pursue a career as a chef, in what was, and still is, a very male-dominated industry.
“I first graduated in 2005 from Johnson and Wales University, and there weren’t a lot of females in this industry back then — and in Miami especially,” she says. “I really looked up to Michelle Bernstein — she was the only female chef I knew of in Miami at the time.”
After graduation, Catra took jobs at Mandarin Oriental in Brickell Key and Jose Andres’s Bazaar Mar in Miami Beach, eventually joining The Bastion Collection, whose portfolio includes Le Jardinier and L’Atelier. Chef Catra serves as the head pastry chef of both restaurants, which recently earned Michelin stars.
“We were in service when it happened,” Catra explains. “And when it was announced, I was in disbelief. It’s something that I’ve been working towards throughout my whole career. It’s always been a goal to work for a Michelin-starred restaurant. The fact that Michelin finally came to Florida and Le Jardinier won a star and L’Atelier won two stars — it felt great.”
The restaurant’s commitment to excellent food is evident in the details. Catra starts early each day, prepping to bake the signature French croissants and petite baguettes. She’s also in charge of the dessert menus; one of her favorite dessert items at Le Jardinier is the raspberry lychee, which Catra says is a perfect dessert to serve in Miami. Catra also draws inspiration for new desserts from the food she grew up with.
“When I’m coming up with new items, I try to stick with local flavors,” she explains. “Because of my Cuban heritage, I grew up eating a lot of tropical flavors like guava and mango, and I always try to incorporate any of those items seasonally into the new dessert items.”
As a lifelong Miami resident, Catra has traveled the country but always returns to her hometown. Catra says that the more she leaves, the more she appreciates coming back to the city.
“I love Miami,” she says with a laugh. “It’s so unique. I’ve been to so many other places, and there really is nowhere like it. I love the blend of cultures that we have here, and I don’t think I could ever leave.”
Like others, Catra has seen Miami evolving into a top culinary destination, especially within the last five years.
“With the food industry in Miami, a lot of restaurants are elevating their dining experience, and in the last four to five years, we’ve had a lot of local chefs opening restaurants,” she says. “It’s been great to see such an elevation of our cuisine in Miami — I really think that’s what we were lacking. It’s been growing, and I think it’s only going to get better.”
Below, Catra shares her recipe for a peach tart, a simplified version of the peach tart on Le Jardinier’s dessert menu. The recipe yields one large peach tart in a standard 9” tart pan.
Peach Tart Dough & Filling
For the Dough:
- 3 cups of butter, cubed
- 2½ cups of powdered sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1¾ cups of egg yolk
- 1 tsp of vanilla extract
- 2 cups of cake flour
- 1 orange for the zest
- ½ teaspoon of salt
For the Peach Tart Filling
- 1½ lbs frozen sliced peaches
- 3½ oz puree peach filling
- 1 cup of sugar
- 4 tsp of lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon of apple pectin
For the dough:
- Mix butter and powdered sugar with the paddle attachment until smooth. Next, slowly add eggs, egg yolk and vanilla, and mix well. Last, add flour, salt and orange zest, and mix until combined. Refrigerate overnight.
- When ready, flatten the dough to 1/8th of an inch and set it in the prepared tart mold. Bake at 325° F for 10-15 minutes, depending on the strength of the oven. The dough should be a light golden color when done baking.
For the filling:
- Dice peaches into half-inch pieces.
- Take 6 teaspoons of the recipe’s sugar and mix it with the apple pectin. Set the mixture aside.
- Bring peach puree, peaches, lemon juice and remaining sugar to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.
- Mix in apple pectin/sugar mixture, and simmer for another 3 minutes. Cool down and add to the baked crust.
- Serve with fresh whipped cream and fresh raspberries for extra deliciousness.
This article was featured in the InsideHook Miami newsletter. Sign up now for more from the 305.
Suggested for you