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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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Abby Fisher’s Sweet Potato Pie

In a food history class, we got this recipe for sweet potato pie. This has orange juice and zest in it, and the class demo pie was delicious.

Sweet potato pie cooled

Sweet potato pie cooled


Abby Fisher was born into slavery in 1832 in South Carolina. In the 1870s, she and her husband moved to San Francisco, where they made pickles. She did catering for wealthy San Francisco and Oakland society, and someone urged her to write a cookbook. One problem: In her youth, she had not been allowed to learn to read or write. She dictated the recipes, and What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking was published, but eventually it was forgotten. It was discovered by a librarian and is now available as a facsimile edition.

Until the late 19th century, recipes were written in paragraphs, just as you might tell someone how to make the dish (which, of course, is what Mrs. Fisher was doing in her cookbook). The original recipe looks like this:

Sweet Potato Pie.
Two pounds of potatoes will make two pies. Boil the potatoes soft; peel and mash fine through a cullender while hot; one tablespoonful of butter to be mashed in with the potato. Take five eggs and beat the yolks and whites separate and add one gill of milk; sweeten to taste; squeeze the juice of one orange, and grate one-half of the peel into the liquid. One half teaspoonful of salt in the potatoes. Have only one crust and that at the bottom of the plate. Bake quickly.

(A gill is half a cup; “cullender” was a standard spelling for colander.)

You need to plan ahead for this one. One efficient way to organize it is to preheat the oven to 400℉, scrub the potatoes and put them on a baking sheet, then get the pie dough made. By the time the dough is ready to rest in the fridge, the oven is preheated and you can pop the potatoes in. When the potatoes are done, leave the oven on and set the potatoes aside to cool a little bit so you can handle them. Roll out the pie dough, line the pie plate, and stick that in the fridge. Then make the filling and get the pie in the oven. This will take about 2 to 2½ hours start to finish. Then the pie needs to cool before you can eat it, so that’s maybe another hour.

Abby Fisher’s Sweet Potato Pie
(makes one pie)
dough for flaky pie crust (recipe follows)
1 lb sweet potatoes, baked until tender (about 45 minutes at 400℉)
½ Tbl butter
3 eggs, separated
¼ cup milk
½ cup sugar (or more if you prefer it sweeter)
juice of half an orange (about 2 to 3 Tbl)
zest of ¼ of an orange, about 1 tsp*
½ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt, or ¼ tsp table salt

*You could use regular orange juice and not bother squeezing the orange, but I strongly recommend using the zest because there’s so much flavor in it.

Flaky Pie Crust
5½ oz (1¼ cups) all-purpose flour
¾ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt (or 3/8 tsp table salt)
1 oz (2 Tbl) vegetable shortening
2 oz (½ stick) butter
2 to 3 oz (¼ cup or more) ice water

To make the pie dough:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
Cut in the shortening and butter using a pastry blender, knives, or your fingers.
Add the ice water a little at a time, fluffing with a fork or your fingers.
When the dough holds together, pat it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate it for 30 minutes or longer.
When the dough is chilled, roll it into a circle, fit it into a pie plate (I use a 9″ Pyrex plate), and crimp the edges.

To make the filling:
Peel the hot potatoes, put them in a bowl, and mash them with a masher or fork.

Peeling the sweet potato: You can just pull the skin right off.

Peeling the sweet potato: You can just pull the skin right off.


Mash in the butter and stir in the salt.
Mash the potatoes, then mash in the butter.

Mash the potatoes, then mash in the butter.


In another bowl, beat the yolks until they’re thick and light, about 1 minute. Whisk in the milk, sugar, juice, and zest.
Stir the egg mixture into the potatoes.
Stir the egg mixture into the potatoes.

Stir the egg mixture into the potatoes.


Whisk the whites until they’re foamy. (You’re not making meringue, but you’re using them to lighten the filling, so be aggressive.) Stir the whites gently into the potatoes.
Gently stir in the beaten whites.

Gently stir in the beaten whites.

To assemble and bake the pie:
Turn the filling into the pie shell.
Bake at 400℉ for 40 to 50 minutes.

Sweet potato pie right out of the oven

Sweet potato pie right out of the oven

References
Fisher, Abby: What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, Soups, Pickles, Preserves, Etc. San Francisco: Women’s Co-operative Printing Office, 1881.
Fisher, Abby: What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, Soups, Pickles, Preserves, Etc. Facsimile edition, with historical notes by Karen Hess. Bedford, Mass: Applewood Books, 1995.

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