Tag Archives: dessert

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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Dulce de Leche

You can buy dulce de leche in any gourmet shop for $9 or $10 for 16 oz (a little over a cup in volume), or you can buy a can of sweetened condensed milk for $3 or less and make your own. There are fiddly, time-consuming ways to make your own, or you can just pop the can in your slow cooker or pressure cooker, which is my idea of convenience.

If you do it in the slow cooker, you put the can in the crock, add water to not quite the top of the can, put the lid on the cooker, set it on low, and leave it for 8 hours. I imagine you could do several cans at once this way, and I think I’m going to try that. What I like about the slow cooker is you can leave the house while it’s on. I would never leave the house with the oven or stove on. You could set this up at bedtime and take the cans out in the morning. The procedure is a little time sensitive, so if you’re not on a strict 8-hour sleep schedule, you could overcook the milk and end up with stiffer caramel than you want.

What I did today was put the one can in the pressure cooker, add 2 quarts of water, bring it up to pressure, and let it cook for 45 minutes. People are afraid of pressure cookers, but they’re safer now than they used to be, and if you pay attention and follow directions, they’re brilliant. Some people use them all the time. Indians use pressure cookers daily to cook things like beans without spending hours at it, and nothing bad happens.

To make your own dulce de leche in the pressure cooker, start with a can of sweetened condensed milk.

A 14-oz can of sweetened condensed milk

A 14-oz can of sweetened condensed milk

Remove the label, put the can in the pressure cooker, and add 2 quarts of water.

The naked can in the pressure cooker with 2 quarts of water

The naked can in the pressure cooker with 2 quarts of water

Check the pressure cooker’s lid to make sure the gasket is installed correctly, and look through the steam vent to make sure you can see through the hole. Lock the lid on the pan. The lid lock itself will stay down until the pressure builds up. Once the pressure has built up in the pan, the lock button rises to lock the lid on.

When the time is up, remove the pan from the burner and let the whole thing cool. For many applications (e.g., cooking beans), you can run cold water over the pan until the lid lock drops and then remove the lid, but you shouldn’t do that with a can in there because the can will still be very hot and could burst open. You can run cold water over the closed pan, and when the pan has cooled enough that it’s only warm to the touch, you can safely remove the lid from the pan. At this point, the can will be warm but not too hot to handle, and you can open it and see what you have.

Like magic, it's dulce de leche.

Like magic, it's dulce de leche.

Of course, the milk continues to cook in the can while you’re waiting for it to cool, and I think 40 minutes would be better, because this is pretty stiff.

Very stiff dulce de leche

Very stiff dulce de leche


It’s delicious, though. I’ll be using some of it in an apple tart in the next day or two. This might be a good consistency for filling cookies or macarons.

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Prune Plum Crumble

Say that 10 times fast.

Marian Burros's prune plum crumble

Marian Burros's prune plum crumble

This is a wildly popular recipe by Marian Burros. Apparently it was first published years ago and the demand is so great that the New York Times publishes it every year. I’ve only just heard of it. I have about 2 lb of prune plums and no idea what to do with them. This recipe doesn’t use all 2 lb, but it makes a dent in them. I followed the recipe exactly as written, weighing the ingredients as I went. I’m reproducing the ingredients list here with the weights of the ingredients.

Marian Burros’s Prune Plum Crumble
For the plum filling
12 purple Italian or prune plums, cut in half and pitted (about 12 oz; I needed 14))
2 T (1 oz) brown sugar
1½ T (½ oz) all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
2 heaping T ( 1½ oz) finely chopped candied ginger

For the topping
½ tsp cinnamon
1 cup all-purpose flour (I used 4½ oz)
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt (½ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt)
1 egg, well beaten
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375℉. Get out a 9-inch pie plate.

To make the filling, whisk together the dry ingredients. Halve and pit the plums.

The filling mixture and some plums

The filling mixture and some plums

Toss the plums with the filling mixture. Prune plums aren’t juicy, so a lot of this mixture didn’t stick to the plums. I sprinkled about half over the bottom of the pie plate. Arrange the plums cut side down (or skin side up, if you prefer) in the pie plate.

Twelve plums but not quite enough

Twelve plums, but not quite enough

Twelve plums wasn’t enough, so I added two more. Then I sprinkled the rest of the filling mixture over the plums.

The plum filling

The plum filling

For the topping, I cut up a stick of butter into a glass measuring cup and heated that in the microwave oven on high for 30 seconds. When I was ready to put the topping on the fruit, I stirred the butter and gave it another 30 seconds. When I was ready for it, it was completely melted.

To make the topping, whisk together the dry ingredients. Beat the egg well and pour it over the topping mixture. Marian wants you to mix this with your hands, so that’s what I did.

Working the egg into the topping

Working the egg into the topping

Work the egg in until the topping is granular.

Topping ready to go

Topping ready to go

Distribute the mixture over the fruit,

Plum crumble topped

Plum crumble topped

then drizzle the melted butter over the topping.

Plum crumble buttered

Plum crumble buttered

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Plum crumble out of the oven

Plum crumble out of the oven

Allow to cool for 1 hour. Serve warm. It’s delicious. I can see why the Times has to reprint it every year.

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