Sunday 12 August 2018

Apricot tart

Just before the oven. A dusting of icing sugar to help caramelise the edges.
"Why don't I eat these more often?" I think whenever I finish a dish of apricots. I haven't yet found a decent answer. At their amber blushing best for the next few months, apricots have a wonderful aromatic balance of sweet and sour.

Apricots can be poached in a simple sugar syrup and served up with a little of the reduced poaching liquor and maybe some crème fraiche but I had a longing for a glistening squidgey, fruity, almondy tart.

And then Jim (my butcher, oddly enough) gave me a job lot of apricots for free. Just past their best apparently. So I had no more excuses not to bake.

Apricot tart.
serves 8 generously

Four parts to this tart: base, frangipane, apricots, glaze. You'll need about 35 good sized apricots.

The base is simple enough: shop bought, all butter, puff pastry. Roll it out. Cut it large enough to overlap the 27cm tart tin and refrigerate until needed.

Frangipane. Soft almond paste that complements apricots so well. In a bowl, beat together 120g each of soft butter and caster sugar. Once pale and fluffy, add 120g of ground almonds. Add in 1 egg and one egg yolk, a little at a time. Finally 25g of plain flour and the very finely grated zest of one (smallish) lemon. Keep the naked lemon.

Apricots. Cut in half about 30 ripe apricots and discard the kernels. If they aren't ripe and slightly soft, don't bother. They should smell of apricots and not packaging.

Assemble. Pipe or spoon the frangipane into the pasty base and arrange the apricots sideways on in circles or however you wish. Cram them in. They will shrink. Dust lightly with icing sugar to aid the delicious and attractive caramelisation of the fruit.

Bake at 210°C for about 30-40 minutes. Remove when: the pastry edge is golden, the fruit is soft and slightly charred and the frangipane is risen and browning. Trim the edge of the pastry with a sharp knife if you want a neat tart. Or don't bother if you really like pastry.

While the tart is baking, make the glaze. You must have a glaze. It transforms the tart. For reasons unknown, a glistening tart is so much more attractive than a plain one. You can of course glaze with some apricot jam, thinned with a little hot water. Nah! I wanted to maximise my apricot flavour and jams are often surprisingly insipid things. So I blended about three apricots with some sugar syrup (boil water and sugar 1:1). Yes 'some' sugar suryp - a deliberate imprecision. Do it to taste. Depends how sweet or tart your apricot blend is. Sieve and heat gently in a pan. Add some lemon juice (from that naked lemon) to taste. Now add a teaspoon of thickening  arrowroot mixed with a little water and bring the glaze to the boil. Allow to cool before brushing all over the tart top.

Something creamy goes well with the tart. Perhaps some sweetened vanilla cream or ice cream?