Thursday, July 18, 2013

Apricot Tarts

Daybreak by Barry Manilow
"It's daybreak, if you only believe, and let it shine, shine, shine, all around the world!"  It's summertime and here in the northwest our days are long!  They get started around 4:30 - 5:00 a.m. and hang on until around 9:30 p.m.  I love this end of the seasonal cycle as opposed to the long nights that hit us in the winter.  When I'm scurrying around at 3:30 in the afternoon trying to get my daylight activities done before sunset at 4, I think to these glorious long, hot summer days.  These cute little Apricot Tarts look like a great big ball of sun wrapped up in puff pastry.  And they taste all happy and joyous - just like how this song makes me feel!  These tarts and this song make me want to run out to my back yard, open my arms wide to the rising sun, and sing out, "Let it shine, shine, shine ~ all around the world!"  

I went to the farmer's market last Friday and found these darling little apricots!
Actually, in all honesty, I went in search of them.
A few weeks ago I had my friend and her daughters over for lunch and we made some savory puff pastry tarts for our meal.  
It made me think about how long it had been since I'd made a sweet pastry.  
I thought that that should probably be remedied!  
Knowing that apricots were in season, I really, really wanted to feature them in my sweet venture and the whole vision of what I wanted just opened up in my mind!

I'm not an apricot eater, in general - neither fresh nor dried.  I remember, as a teen, my mother had a wall of large clear jars filled with all sorts of grains, nuts, and dried fruits.  
Sometimes she'd notice a great reduction in the amount of dried apricots and start interrogating us kids to find the culprit.  
She knew better than to ask me, though.  
I never made any pretenses of liking them.  
Now, the dehydrated banana chips . . . . .

But I do like apricots in baked preparations.  
And baby food.  
Yeah, that's weird, but it's true!

I wanted a creamy bed for the beautiful apricot halves to rest on while getting their sauna treatment in the oven.  
Mascarpone is one of my favorite creamies and it made a gorgeous pillow!

The fact that you can get puff pastry at the grocery store, all ready for you to shape and bake, is one of the nicest conveniences available to the general public.  
Puff pastry is not hard to make - it's just a little time-consuming.  
I've been asked to do a post on it some day - and maybe I will.  
But there are some really wonderful videos about it out there on the internet which, I feel, do a better job than I could.  This video demo with Paul Hollywood is fascinating to watch!  Try to make it when you can, but in the meantime, run to the freezer section of your grocery store and get some that somebody has already made for you!

Some tips for working with puff pastry in advance:
Work on a lightly floured surface.
You will need to let it set out on the counter at room temperature for 30 - 40 minutes as it's frozen.
And once you start working with it, you will need to work fast and not let it get too warm.
The key to puff pastry working correctly is to keep it cold and not letting the butter layers throughout start to melt - that's a step that should be saved for the oven!

Apricot Tart
makes 9 tarts
5 small apricots
1 T. lemon juice
1 package puff pastry (contains 2 sheets)
4 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, beans scraped out
1 egg
1 t. water
1/4 c. apricot jam
1 T. water
1/2 c. sliced almonds, toasted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place puff pastry on the counter at room temperature to let it start to soften.  But not for longer than 40 minutes!  By the time you've prepped the apricots and made the cream filling, you should be good to go!

To slip the skins off the apricots, bring a medium-sized saucepan of water to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.  Using a sharp knife, make a criss cross slit on the bottom of each apricot then place in the pan of hot water.  Let them blanch for about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove and put immediately into the bowl of ice water to stop the heating process.  Take the knife and easily pull the skins off.  Halve the apricots and take out the seeds.  Place back in the bowl of ice water and add the lemon juice to keep the apricots from oxidizing.

In a separate bowl, mix the mascarpone, sugar, and vanilla beans together until well blended.  Leave in bowl or place in a piping bag and set aside.

Lightly flour a surface and unfold one of the puff pastry sheets.  Using a rolling pin, smooth out the surface and make it square.  Take a knife and cut into 9 squares.
Place the squares on a parchment-lined sheet tray.  Then do the same with the second sheet of puff pastry - but you are going to cut circles out of these ones with a 2 1/4" cutter.*
Make an egg wash by whisking together the egg and water.  Use a brush or your finger and brush the outside of the whole squares with the wash.
Place one of the circle squares on top of the whole squares.
Remove your apricot halves from the lemon water and pat dry on a paper towel.  Pipe or spoon some of the cream filling into the center of each of those circles.  Then top with an apricot half.  Brush the top side of the puff pastry with some of the egg wash and then sprinkle sugar all over the top of the tart.
Place the tarts in the oven and bake for 25 - 30 minutes.  The shells will puff up when they hit the heat and form a wall around the apricot.  Some of the filling might ooze out but it's ok!  They will look like this when they come out!
You might think you're done - but not quite!  To give them the real professional treatment you'll want to heat some apricot jam in a small sauce pan with 1 tablespoon of water to loosen it up.  You ever notice how the pastries in the bakery have that glistening and shiny top?  They coat the tops of pastries with simple syrups or apricot jam - just like you're about to do!  Once the jam is syrupy, brush all over the tops of the tarts, including the apricot, with the jam.  Sprinkle the toasted almonds around the top.  NOW you're ready to enjoy!  Let it shine!
*Note - worried about what to do with all those puff pastry circles left over?  Keep cold until ready to use, then simply brush some butter across their tops and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and crushed nuts, if you have some, and bake for about 15 - 20 minutes.  Delicious!


  1. Ha!! "Daybreak" is one of my all-time favorite songs and we are pro-apricot around here so this post must be for me! ;) These look delicious!!!

    I love your posts!!!

    1. Hey Team! I've missed running into you! If you are pro-apricot you must be heaven this time of year!

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