This is the ultimate taste of summer for me, because it involves my ultimate summer fruit: the apricot. Between about June and October, it would be a very rare thing to open my fridge and not spy a brown paper bag full of these golden, silky, fragrant orbs. I buy them in bulk every time I visit a market or a supermarket, spending a few moments picking out the best: those that feel heaviest in the hand, those that are warm and soft as a baby’s cheek rather than hard and cold, those that sport a mottled, sienna-coloured blush on one side. Of course, this is no real indication of what they will be like to eat raw – I’ve never had a very good raw apricot in my life, and have given up trying. Instead, apricots meet one of two ends in my kitchen: that of being baked slowly with honey, orange blossom water and cinnamon in the oven, or poached in a pan with orange juice, vanilla and star anise. Oh, and sometimes I make jam, throwing in cardamom seeds and a vanilla pod. It’s divine.
However, I recently discovered this tart, a recipe from one of my favourite food blogs: Pastry Studio. Having already made apricot galette, apricot crumble tart and baked apricots in a single fortnight, I decided it was high time to branch out a little. I’m glad I did, because this has now become my absolute favourite apricot dessert recipe. It features a gorgeous almond-scented pastry, made in a super-easy way by stirring melted butter and sugar into flour and pressing into a tart tin (yes, that is literally it), which ends up tasting like a cheesecake base or a digestive biscuit and is better, crunchier and more moreish than normal pastry. Into this you pour a gorgeous medley of crème fraiche, honey, vanilla and almond, and top with luscious apricot slices. The filling puffs up and turns golden and gooey in the oven, while the fruit intensifies in flavour and jammy sweetness.
I like this tart because it’s a dessert in itself – you don’t really need ice cream, cream or crème fraiche to go alongside, because you have the lovely gooey custard filling. The biscuit base remains wonderfully crisp and crunchy thanks to a layer of ground almonds between it and the filling (I grind my own almonds for this, because the flavour is much better), and those apricots…so sweet, molten, tangy and delicious. Buttery, crispy pastry with a hint of marzipan, sweet honey-scented custard and ripe, juicy summer fruit. It’s easy to put together but, pulled from the oven and dusted with icing sugar, will look like something you could easily have spent £20 on from a fancy patisserie in London or Paris. Revel in the compliments and appreciative murmurs as this is devoured.
Incidentally, this also works well with plums, and I imagine would be excellent with raspberries, blueberries or figs.
Apricot and almond tart (serves 8):
(Adapted from the wonderful Pastry Studio, here)
For the pastry:
- 115g butter, melted
- 40g light muscovado sugar
- ¼ tsp almond extract
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp salt
- 180g spelt flour
- 2 tbsp blanched almonds
For the filling:
- 150g half-fat crème fraiche
- 1 large egg
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp almond extract
- 2 tbsp good quality honey (I like lavender)
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- 400g apricots
- 2 tbsp demerara sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 180C. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar. Add the extracts, salt and flour and mix until you get a soft dough. Grease an 8 or 9 inch loose-bottomed tart tin, then press the dough into the base and sides of the tin with the back of a spoon to form an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden.
In a small food processor, blitz the almonds to fine crumbs. Scatter across the base of the tart case. In a small bowl, whisk together the crème fraiche, egg, vanilla, almond extract, honey and cornflour. Pour into the pastry case. Halve and stone the apricots (quarter them if they’re large) then arrange over the filling. Scatter with the demerara sugar, then bake for 45-50 minutes, until the filling has set and is starting to turn golden. Remove and leave to cool before serving, dusted with icing sugar.