After two months of relishing the transient taste of summer fruit, I've reached the midsummer doldrums. Suddenly I'm not as obsessively smitten with the cavalcade of fruit available this time of year. Of course I still enjoy eating a ripe peach or crisp cherries, but after spending most of May and June smelling and caressing each peach or apricot as I pick through the lot to find the perfect one, I'm a little over it. Nope. At this point I now simply toss four or five pieces of stone fruit into a bag, cart them home with everything else, place them in a bowl on the counter and hope that someone eats them in the next day or two so they don't molder and collect fruit flies. The more I think about it, the more I find that my relationship with summer fruit is sort of like a romance. You start off all hot and bothered by the unique amazing characteristics that make you fall in love, and end up taking the object of your devotion for granted later when life returns to normal. But that doesn't mean that my time romancing summer fruit is over, because baking brings out a whole new sense of wonder.
Each summer I try to find one or two new fruit recipes. Last year I couldn't seem to make my cherry almond tea cake enough, and I still find that recipe to be very appealing. This summer it's an apricot cream tart. Like so much in life, a series of mishaps led to the creation of this recipe. I was going to make a peach tart, but then the peaches I had bought turned out to be flavorless (more evidence of my waning devotion to picking the perfect summer fruit). So with only eight apricots on hand, I stared at my blind-baked tart crust and began to imagine new possibilities.
The idea of a cream tart sounded intriguing, and so with some advice to check out Julia Child's Tarte Normande aux Pommes recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I proceeded. As with most Julia Child recipes, the cream filling in the recipe had a lot of actual heavy whipping cream in it, an ingredient I didn't have on hand. Plus I am trying to reduce the use of whipping cream in my life (and arteries). So after doubling the recipe and altering some key ingredients, I laid my apricots on top of my crust with some sprinkled sugar and then poured in the filling. After about a half hour I opened the oven door to find one of the prettiest tarts I've made in ages. But would the taste live up to the presentation? As a matter of fact, it did. The cream filling was rich and dense while the apricots nestled within offered not only sweetness, but also a welcome hint of tartness to counterbalance the flavors.
My love affair with summer fruit is now revived.
APRICOT CREAM TART
An apricot tart with cream filling inspired by the Tarte Normande aux Pommes recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Yield: One 10-inch tart
1 pre-baked tart crust (recipe below)
8 medium to large apricots (you can also use peaches, apriums, pluots or nectarines)
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar for the cream filling plus 1/4 cup for the fruit
1/3 cup flour
1 cup whole milk
1 Tbsp brandy or 1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp apricot jam (optional)
1. Line the bottom of the pre-baked tart crust with apricot jam if using.
2. In a medium bowl, whip the eggs with 2/3 cup of sugar for about one minute. Add in the milk, flour and brandy (or vanilla extract) and then whip until fully incorporated.
3. Cut the fruit in half and remove the pits and mix with the remaining sugar. Lay the fruit on the tart crust in a circular pattern.
4. Gently pour the filling into the crust, being careful not to cover the fruit.
5. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, or until the filling is just firm.
6. Remove tart from oven and let cool before serving.
CREAM CHEESE TART CRUST
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
Yield: One 10-inch tart crust
1 stick cold unsalted butter (cut into small pieces)
3 Tbsp cold cream cheese
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 Tsp salt
~5 Tbsp cold water
1. Mix butter and salt into flour with your fingers, a pastry cutter or in a food processor while pulsing until mostly incorporated.
2. Add in cream cheese the same way you added in the butter.
3. Slowly mix in the water (being sure that it's very cold) until the flour mixture starts to hold together and then stop.
4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or dump in a large ziplock bag (I prefer the latter) and refrigerate for at least a half hour (or up to one day).
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (or 325 in a convection oven) while you roll out your dough and then place in a 10-inch tart plate.
6. Poke some holes with a fork on the bottom of the tart crust, line the dough with foil or parchment paper and then lay some pie weights or dried beans on top.
7. Bake for 15 minutes and then remove the pie weights/beans and foil/parchment paper and bake for another 7-10 minutes or until just barely turning golden.
8. Remove crust from oven and let cool.