Joy of joys: we are smack bang in the middle of apricot season. I always imagine apricots as being uniformly sweet, and it’s not until I eat my first of the year that I’m reminded how wrong I am. When ripe, apricots are as tart as they are sweet, rich and aromatic. They smell of honey and summer gardens. Their complex flavour means that they pair beautifully with a number of ingredients that can otherwise overwhelm: dried lavender, rose water, amaretto, citrus and honey, earthy spices and warm nuts. Here I’ve paired them simply with almonds in the frangipane, and ground cardamom.
Of course, ripe apricots are an imitable summer pleasure, the nectar spilling down chins and arms: they are best eaten solo, greedily over a kitchen sink. When it comes to apricots, ‘ripen in the fruit bowl’ is a bit of a fudge: although the fruit will soften, when uncooked, it will never reach the flavour heights of those ripened before picking. But even those that haven’t quite reached their potential – can be transformed when treated with a little heat and sweetness.
This tart will showcase the sunny nature of this fruit whether at peak ripeness or not. I picked up an optimistic dozen from my local shop earlier this week, seduced by the scent and the low price. Even when ripe, apricots will keep their shape, and won’t leach out their juices as they bake; but the surrounding frangipane, and time in the oven will bring out the best even in those apricots that are less yielding and fragrant.
4 ripe apricots
2 tablespoons apricot jam
130g plain flour
130g ground almonds
1 tablespoon icing sugar
100g salted butter, cold from the fridge
1 egg yolk
125g unsalted butter, softened
125g light brown sugar
125g ground almonds
¼ tsp ground cardamom
1. First, make the pastry. Place the flour and icing sugar into a large mixing bowl. Cube the cold butter and rub it into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until the mixture resemble breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and stir in with a knife until the mixture begins to come together, at which point squish it briefly with your hands, wrap in clingfilm and pop in the fridge for 20 minutes.
2. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out to the thickness of a pound coin. Roll it so that it is an inch bigger in all dimensions than your tart tin. I used a rectangular tart tin measuring 10×4 inches, but these quantities would also work in a round, eight-inch tart tin. Drape the pastry over the tart tin. Ease the dough into the crevices and corners of the tin, and cut away enough of the excess dough so that it is not dragging down the rest of the pastry, but leave a little overhang for now. If your pastry has developed holes or cracks as you’ve moved it, patch these up with some of the excess. Refrigerate for another 20 minutes.
3. Heat the oven to 170°C. Once chilled, roll a rolling pin across the edge of the tin: this will cause the overhang of pastry to neatly fall away leaving it flush with the edge of the tin. Prick all over the pastry with a fork, line with oven-safe clingfilm or baking parchment, and fill to the brim with dry rice or baking beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the clingfilm and baking beans, and bake for another five minutes until the pastry is dry and slightly golden.
4. To make the frangipane, cream together the butter, sugar and ground almonds until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and ground cardamom, and beat through. Spoon the frangipane into an even layer in the tart tin. Halve the apricots, remove the stones and place the halves cut-side down into the frangipane in a row along the length of the tin.
5. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven: the frangipane will still be wobbly and soft, so set to one side to cool.
6. Once cool, warm the apricot jam until it is spreadable. Brush the apricot jam onto the surface of the tart. Remove from the tin and slice. Serve with really good vanilla ice cream, or crème fraîche.