Monthly Archives: July 2011

Apricot Tart

This is a tart we learned to make in Ivan Day’s Pie Making and Pastry course. Unlike modern recipes, with this one your ingredients are based on how many apricots will fill your tart. It helps to have a scale, but you can manage without one. You do need a nutcracker, though.

A slice of apricot tart

A slice of apricot tart

I used the pâte sablée recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but I substituted some almond flour for some of the all-purpose flour and some almond extract for some of the vanilla. Almond is a good complement to apricots, which are related to almonds.

In fact, apricot pits look a lot like almonds, and the seeds, which are edible, smell like almonds when you chop them.

An apricot pit

An apricot pit

Apricot seeds (like almonds) contain amygdalin, which is a precursor to cyanide, but the body quickly processes the amygdalin, so you have to eat a lot of apricot seeds to be in any danger. Bitter almonds contain a lot more amygdalin than apricot seeds do, and you have to eat 4 or 5 dozen of those to incur any risk. I mention this because the recipe calls for using the apricot seeds. I had two slices of the tart last Sunday, and I felt no symptoms of cyanide poisoning.

Apricot Tart
Crust
5 oz all purpose flour
2 oz almond flour
3 Tbl powdered sugar
2½ oz unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 oz (2 Tbl) vegetable shortening
1 egg
½ tsp almond extract
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ice water

Filling
about 3 lb of firm apricots
about 1 lb of sugar, probably more

To make the tart shell:
Fit the food processor with the metal blade. Add the dry ingredients and process to combine. Add the butter and shortening and process until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. Add the egg, extracts, and water and process until the dough comes together, about 30 seconds.

Remove the dough from the work bowl and roll it out on a flour-dusted surface. Transfer the dough to an 11-inch tart pan and press it into the bottom and sides. The sugar makes this dough pretty fragile, and you might find it easier to forgo the rolling and just press the dough into the tart pan.

Line the shell with foil and distribute weights over it. Chill the shell in the freezer or refrigerator while you preheat the oven.

Preheat the oven to 375℉. Bake the shell for 15 minutes. Remove the shell from the oven and, lifting the foil by the corners, remove the foil and weights from the shell. Return the shell to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes. Set the shell aside to cool.

To make the filling:
Buy enough apricots to fill your tart tin. For an 11-inch tin, you’ll need 18 to 20 apricots, about 3 pounds.

3 pounds of apricots

3 pounds of apricots

Cut the apricots in half. Put the prettier half face down on a large plate.

Apricot halves resting on a plate

Apricot halves resting on a plate

Put the less-pretty half in a large nonreactive saucepan. I set my saucepan on my scale. Weigh the apricot halves in the saucepan and weigh out 3/4 of that amount in granulated white sugar. My apricot halves weighed 1 lb 6¾ oz, so:

16 + 6.75 = 22.75
22.75 × 0.75 = 17.0625

or about 17 ounces of sugar.

If you don’t have a scale, you have to know the weight of the apricots. If you bought them at a supermarket, the receipt should give you the weight. If you bought them at the farmer’s market, make sure you remember the weight. (If you picked them from your own tree, you’ll have to guess.) The pits don’t weigh much; my pits weighed 2 oz. Divide the total weight by 2 and then round down to get the weight of the cooked apricots, then multiply that by 0.75.

Set the pits aside. Put the saucepan with the apricots over medium heat and cook them until they start to exude their juice.

Apricots cooking. You don't have to cut them up, but I did a little.

Apricots cooking. You don't have to cut them up, but I did a little.

At that point, pour in the sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves in the apricot juice. Eventually this will be apricot jam, which is part of the tart filling.

Apricots with sugar stirred in

Apricots with sugar stirred in

While the jam is cooking, crack the apricot pits (if you can, several of mine were too hard to crack) and remove the seeds.

Apricot seeds. Some were crushed when the  shell cracked.

Apricot seeds. Some were crushed when the shell cracked.

Chop the seeds and set them aside.

Chopped apricot seeds

Chopped apricot seeds

As you’re working on cracking the pits, keep an eye on the jam and stir it from time to time. The jam will be done in 30 to 60 minutes; mine took about 45 minutes. It’s done when there are no identifiable pieces of fruit (you’ll see pieces of apricot skin, which is fine) and the jam is quite thick and not runny.

Apricot jam done

Apricot jam done

Stir in the chopped apricot seeds and set the jam aside to cool a little.

Jam with chopped seeds stirred in

Jam with chopped seeds stirred in

Preheat the oven to 350℉.

Spread some of the jam over the bottom of the shell. Arrange the remaining apricot halves, cut side down, in the cooled tart shell. Spoon in the rest of the jam, making sure you fill all the spaces.

Assembled and ready to bake

Assembled and ready to bake

Bake the tart for 30 to 40 minutes or until the apricots are tender when you stick a sharp knife in them.

The baked tart

The baked tart

Cool the tart on a rack. When it’s cool enough to handle, remove the tart from the tin. This tart serves 8 to 12 if you’re willing to share.

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Red, White, and Blue Bombe

The other day on Facebook, the folks at King Arthur Flour suggested making strawberry sorbet. It sounded good, so I made sure to get some strawberries at the supermarket. Then I thought, why stop there? For Independence Day, a red, white, and blue bombe would be fun: A batch of strawberry sorbet, the same recipe but with blueberries, and a batch of vanilla ice cream layered in little molds.

Red, white, and blue bombe for Independence Day

Red, white, and blue bombe for Independence Day

For the sorbet, I pretty much followed the KAF recipe, but I made double the syrup and used half for the strawberry and half for the blueberry. Then I made Chef Bo’s vanilla ice cream base, which turned out better than any ice cream base I’ve ever made. I have the Cuisinart Ice-20 machine, which everyone recommends. (Actually, Cuisinart has a newer version, Ice-21, now.) The drawback is that you have to plan ahead and get the freezer bowl in the freezer well in advance, like 24 hours; alternatively, you can just leave it in the freezer all the time if you have enough room in your freezer, which I usually don’t.

Churned Berry Sorbet
adapted from the KAF recipe
2 cups water
14 ounces sugar
7½ ounces light corn syrup
1 quart fresh strawberries
24 oz fresh blueberries
4 oz lemon juice

Mix the sugar and water in a sauce pan and bring it to the boil over medium heat. Wash down the sides of the pan so the sugar doesn’t fall in later and recrystallize the sugar in the syrup. When the syrup comes to the boil, add the corn syrup. Boil the syrup for about 5 minutes. Store the syrup in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.

Clean and hull the strawberries; cut them up if they’re large, as the ones from the supermarket tend to be. Put them in the food processor with 2 oz of the lemon juice and puree them.

Strawberries ready to be pureed

Strawberries ready to be pureed

If you want your sorbet to be smooth and uniform, strain the puree to remove the seeds and larger bits of fruit. I kind of like the rougher look and texture, so I didn’t strain mine.

Strawberry puree

Strawberry puree

Wash the blueberries, remove any stems, and puree them with the other 2 oz of lemon juice. Mix each puree with half the syrup; I got 24 oz of syrup, so 12 oz of syrup for each puree. Chill both purees; the churning goes faster if the ingredients are cold.

When the freezer bowl is frozen and the ingredients are good and cold, set up the machine, turn it on, and pour in one of the purees.

Adding the sorbet mixture with the freezer running

Adding the sorbet mixture with the freezer running

If everything’s really cold, you might be able to clean the freezer bowl and make the other batch of sorbet immediately. However, you should probably clean the freezer bowl and put it back in the freezer for a few hours first.

Vanilla Ice Cream Base
adapted from the recipe in The Professional Pastry Chef
1 vanilla bean
1 quart half and half
10 oz sugar
10 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and put the seeds and pod in a large saucepan. Add the half and half and bring it to the scald over medium heat. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the sugar and yolks until they’re smooth and lemon-colored. When the half and half reaches the scald, slowly pour it into the egg mixture, stirring the egg mixture (not whisking) constantly. Return the custard to the saucepan and cook it over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the custard reaches 180℉. Immediately remove the saucepan from the burner. Strain the custard into a clean container and stir in the vanilla extract. Age the custard for at least 8 hours in the refrigerator. Aging improves the flavor and texture of the ice cream.

Once the ice cream base is aged, process it in the ice cream freezer. My machine doesn’t have anything like enough room for the whole batch of base, so I only churned 2 cups of base to start with.

If you have little molds for pudding or Jello, you can layer the sorbets and ice cream to make a bombe. The molds I wanted to use were too short for the bombe I had in mind, but it turns out they’re the same diameter as my English muffin rings, so I extended the molds with those. I put a layer of blueberry sorbet in the bottom of the mold and let that freeze for an hour. Then I added a layer of vanilla ice cream and let that freeze for an hour. Then I stuck an English muffin ring on the mold to hold the layer of strawberry sorbet and let that freeze for an hour.

To get the bombe out of the mold, dip the mold in a dish of hot water for about 10 seconds. Wipe off the wet mold so you don’t drip water everywhere. Turn the mold over a plate and, using the tip of a paring knife,  encourage the bombe to come out of the mold. At this point, I find the ice cream needs to be tidied up a bit and put back in the freezer for a few minutes.

A scoop of each sorbet and the vanilla ice cream in a bowl would also be pretty and festive.

References

Friberg, Bo: Vanilla ice cream custard. In The Professional Pastry Chef. New York: John Wiley, 2002, pp 734-735.

King Arthur Flour: Strawberry sorbet. Available at http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/strawberry-sorbet-recipe

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