An Abundance of Apricots
Roasted Apricot Cinnamon Sugar Tartlets
Sometimes it's hard to figure out what to make. Sometimes I suffer from a surfeit of suggestions, unable to settle on just one idea, other times it's the dreaded blank slate, when everything seems either too simple or too difficult or too not my style or not my flavors and I end up with my refrigerator and bookcases in disarray and still-clean bowls lining the counter.
That's why I enjoy spring and summer so much, because it's so easy to find inspiration. I just walk down the street to market and see what's come in today: crates of dark red cherries, baskets of plump strawberries, bushels of rosy nectarines. Sometimes I'll finger the exotica: yellow-green papayas, pebbly-skinned lychees, flower bulb-like mangosteens, and ponder whether this is the week I'll try something with them.
This week, however, my eye was caught by a more familiar fruit: the blushing gold apricots. Apricots are the delicate little cousins of peaches and I feel like they often get treated that way: they're not as boldly, sensually curved, and eaten fresh their flavor can be subtler, tarter, unlike the sparkling sweetness of peaches.
I've talked before about holding a peach: it's a gorgeously brazen coquette that fills your hands and boldly tempts you. Holding an apricot, on the other hand, is like holding a robin's egg or a seashell, rare and subtle; you've got to hold it close to find its secrets. When apricots are not fully ripe they can be firm and tart and not the most flavorful. At their peak, though, their flesh becomes lushly yielding, and their flavor takes on a rich, honeyed tone. Cooking is where apricots really shine, which is why you see apricot jam so often: when heated apricots blossom into a wonderful ambrosia, as dreamily sweet as a summer Sunday afternoon.
Apricots have such a short season as well, so very often the apricots you find at market will not be perfectly ripe. I left mine in a paper bag for a few days until they softened and starting scenting the kitchen. I wanted something simple and quick to showcase the fruit, and a puff pastry tart immediately sprang to mind.
Almond Apricot Frangipane Tartlets
Now, before you start protesting that puff pastry does not fall under the category of "simple and quick", let me direct you to my blitz puff recipe which you really can make on a whim. It take less than half an hour to put together and once you've given it a good chill, you're ready to start cranking out the tartlets.
I kept it as breezily easy as possible: apricot slices, a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar, and instant summer dessert! With a scoop of ice cream, nothing could be simpler for a warm evening. If you're looking to up the ante, a layer of frangipane spread on the pastry, topped with apricots and a sprinkling of almonds, and you've got yourself a luxe little patisserie-worthy pastry.
Naturally, this will work wonderfully with many of summer's fruits, from peaches to plums. You could also add berries on top after they come out of the oven. In any case, the crisp, buttery puff pastry makes the ideal bed for honeyed, ripe fruit. I love how the pastry puffs up so neatly round the fruit every time, like the perfect picture frame. When you add the frangipane, its creamy nuttiness elevates the clean sweetness of the fruit even more.
I'm actually very happy with this week's creation as it embodies many of my ideals about pastry: simple, seasonal, and richly rewarding for the effort one puts in. After all, isn't summer all about minimizing work and maximizing pleasure?
makes about 12 3"x5" tartlets
7 to 8 apricots
1 recipe Blitz Puff Pastry
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
apricot jam for glaze
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.
Halve and pit the apricots. Slice them thinly. Sort them them groups of 6 or 7 slices - this will make assembling the tarts faster.
Divide the puff pastry in half and return one piece to the refrigerator to keep it cold. Roll out the other half on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4" thick (not too thin).
Using a sharp knife, cut the pastry into roughly 3 1/2" x 5 1/5" rectangles. You can make the tartlets any size you want; square, round, etc. If you make one big tart, though, you may have to adjust the baking time and watch for the outer edges baking before the center.
If you want to use frangipane(see recipe below) on these tartlets, spread a thin layer on top of the puff pastry, leaving a 1/2" border as the frangipane will puff and spread in the oven.
Arrange 6 to 7 apricot slices on each rectangle. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over each tartlet.
Bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating halfway through. The puff pastry should puff up and turn golden brown. Place tartlets on a wire rack and brush lightly with apricot jam. Let cool slightly before serving.
Frangipane (adapted from Nick Malgieri's How to Bake)
3/4 cup blanched almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup flour
Place almonds and sugar in a food processor. Process until almonds are very fine.
Add almond extract and one of the eggs and process until smooth.
Add the butter and process until fully combined and the mixture is smooth.
Add in the egg and process just until incorporated.
Add in the flour and process just until incorporated.
You can use the frangipane immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.