My 4-year-old grandson Freddie loves apricot Danish pastries. Whenever we go to a cafe for morning coffee and babyccino, given free rein to choose a pastry, Freddie will invariably go for the apricot variety (though Pain au Chocolat is a close second). When I was shopping yesterday for today’s family Sunday meal and saw apricots, I just had to buy some. I didn’t have Danish pastries in mind though, but an apricot tart. Hopefully Freddie would judge this a reasonable alternative – and just as good!
I’m a big fan of apricots myself. They’re invariably disappointing fresh in UK but when sun-kissed in Mediterranean countries – like these in Aix en Provence, next to some gorgeous greengages – they are one of my favourite fruits, and I can never resist buying some to take back to wherever I’m staying.
Baked, the flavour intensifies and is truly deep and gorgeous. To get the best flavour for the tart, I baked the apricots first so they started caramelising, before adding them to the pastry case for final cooking.
You don’t really need anything to accompany the tart. In a French patisserie it would come on its own. But I thought a jug of single cream to pour over would go down well with the family.
Tarte aux Abricots
- 500g (8-10) apricots
- 1 dessertspoon caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons apricot jam
Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
- 225g plain flour
- 150g butter
- 50g caster sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 whole egg
- 3 egg yolks
- 30g caster sugar
- 2 rounded teaspoons custard powder or cornflour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
- 250ml milk
I used the same pastry recipe I used for the little Apple Streusel Tartlets I made recently as it worked so well. I’ve always liked to make pastry by hand but this recipe works brilliantly well in the food processor. And that’s so much easier! Just put all the ingredients for the pastry into the processor. Process until it comes together into a clump. Wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge to rest and chill while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Heat the oven to 220C/Fan 200/Gas 7. Cut the apricots in half and remove the stones. Lay the halves skin-side down on a baking sheet. Sprinkle over the dessertspoon of caster sugar. Bake until the juices are starting to run and the apricots are very slightly caramelised (don’t cook too much; they’ll be cooked more in the tart case). My apricots took about 15 minutes to soften and the juices to run but they were a bit under-ripe. Ripe apricots would take less time so put in for a shorter time and keep watch until you think they’re right. Leave the oven on for baking the tart once it’s all put together.
While the apricots are cooking, make the Crème Pâtissière. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and thickening. Add the vanilla and custard powder or cornflour (this helps stabilise the custard as well as thicken it a bit). Whisk some more. Heat the milk until it just comes to the boil. Pour slowly into the egg mixture, whisking as you go. Pour back into a clean saucepan. Stirring constantly, bring gently to the boil. Leave to cool.
Prepare a 24cm loose-bottomed flan case by greasing with butter. Sprinkle in a little plain flour and shake around to pretty much cover the base and sides very lightly with flour. Carefully hold upside down and shake out excess. I like to prepare the tin in this way so that it’s easier to remove the flan at the end after cooking.
Roll out the pastry on a floured surface until it’s about 3-4mm thick. It’s a very rich soft dough so will break easily. Therefore use a good amount of flour on the surface to help hold it together. Roll it a little bit round the rolling pin and lift onto the flan tin. Gently push into the edges and cut away the extra pastry around the top. My flan case (which is about 40 years old!) has sharp enough edges for me to just press the pastry into the edge to cut the extra away.
Bake blind in the oven. Scrunch some greaseproof paper up and then lay it across the bottom of the pastry lining. Pour in some baking beans. Bake for 5 minutes. Take from the oven and remove the beans. Pop the pastry case back into the oven to dry out a bit – about 3-5 minutes. Then remove. Pour in the Crème Pâtissière and spread across the bottom of the pastry case.
Lay the apricots on top. (I rather wished at this point that I’d bought more apricots!) Reserve any juices to add to the glaze.
Return to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until the pastry is nicely browning around the edge. Remove and allow to cool in the tin.
Melt the jam gently in a pan with the reserved apricot juices and a dash of water. Stir until the mixture melts and starts to bubble. Remove from the heat. Use a pastry brush to brush the glaze over the tart – the pastry edges and tops of the apricots.
Carefully remove from the tin. It should all come away easily. Lift the base away from the sides, making sure your tart doesn’t slip off! Then slide a large slice/turner between the base and bottom of the tart to hold it together as you lift the tart away from the tin base and lay on a serving plate.
It didn’t look quite as perfect as a a tart from a French patisserie, but it did look pretty good and more importantly, it tasted absolutely wonderful. The pastry was as perfect as for the little apple tartlets – a good flavour, light and melt-in-the-mouth. The slight tartness of the apricots, soft and caramelised, was perfectly complemented by the custard. Dessert this evening was a huge success; a perfect end to the family meal. And Freddie asked for seconds!