Saturday, June 26, 2010

Apricot Tart with Almonds

When I was 17, I went to France for the first time to be an au-pair for the summer. About a month into my stay, the family's grandfather came to visit and died suddenly during the night. The family went into mourning, the kids were a wreck and the teary-eyed mother asked me if I wanted to leave. I high-tailed it out of there. I caught a series of trains and buses winding across the border and down the coast. 24 hours later, after one missed train and a few futile phone calls home, I found my way to my grandmother's house, a little oasis on Spain's Costa Brava.

My paternal grandmother was not known for her cooking. I was just relieved to be saved from the funeral arrangements in France and she was glad for the company that summer. Being the only granddaughter that speaks French, we shared stories, songs and books that summer, along with an apricot tart.

Her property in Spain had a lovely flower garden along with lemon, almond and apricot trees. We wandered in the garden and picked the fruit. It was my first taste of fresh apricots. They hung on the trees, fully ripe. Round and bright, they sat in bowls looking eager to be broken apart, eaten. She said, "why don't you make apricot tart?" Suddenly, she was really redeeming herself for having this recipe roll off her tongue- she seemed like an expert cook. I have always been sorry I did not write down her recipe.

The recipe below is heavily adapted from Bon Appetit magazine, and originally used canned apricots. Seeing as they are in season now, I am using fresh. I don't think it would merit baking this tart out of season. I made several omissions (such as the honey and almond extract) just to simplify the tart. The recipe is a bit complicated since you make a custard but then before baking you add more ingredients to the custard before filling the tart crust. I broke up the original recipe up to make it more user friendly. The last change I made was to use an entirely different pastry crust that uses ground almonds. I am not very skilled at pastry dough, I consider it pretty intimidating, but this one appealed to me because it didn't require rolling. Once it comes out of the food processor, I just pressed it to fit in the tart pan, then popped it in the freezer. It was pretty stress free compared to my usual experiences with pie dough.

I love the way the domes of the apricots peek through the custard in this almondy tart. Fresh apricots are sunny, like baby Roman's round, rosy cheeks.

Apricot Tart with Almonds

For the pastry crust
1/4 cup blanched almonds, lightly toasted and cooled
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1 egg yolk

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse to finely grind the almonds. Add the flour, sugar and salt, and process to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. With the machine running, add the egg yolk and extract through the feed tube and process until combined. Add the ice water and process just until a dough forms. Remove from the machine. Fit into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, pressing the dough first along the sides and then evenly across the bottom. Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Line the dough with parchment paper and pie weights or beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights and bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack before filling.

For the custard
2/3 cup whole milk
1 2-inch piece vanilla bean split lengthwise
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Pour milk into saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat. Whisk egg yolks, 3 tablespoons sugar and cornstarch in a bowl to blend. Gradually whisk milk mixture into yolk mixture. Return to pan. Whisk over medium heat until custard thickens and boils, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool and discard vanilla bean.

Custard, continued
1/2 cup blanched whole almonds
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
8 small apricots (adjust amount depending on their size)

Grind almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor. Add cooled custard, pulse to blend. Blend in butter and whole egg. Pour into crust, smooth top. Arrange apricot halves, round side up, on top of the filling.
Bake tart at 400 degrees until filling is set and golden, about 45 minutes. Cooking time will depend on your oven, so check at about 40 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Store any leftovers in refrigerator.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Cousin,

    My dad sent me a link to this, and it is beautiful! I am so impressed with your recipes, and the writing. It is lovely to get a peek inside your kitchen. I'll have to give this recipe a try when stone fruit is in season later this summer.


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