I've always loved apricots as a fruit to enjoy as is but I'm finding it hard to find decently flavoured ones - it just seems as if the taste has been washed out of them. Perhaps they just aren't being picked ripe enough. My solution is to cook with them as a way of intensifying what little flavour they have - poaching them in a simple vanilla-spiked sugar syrup is my favourite course of action.
These poached apricots can be enjoyed as is or as you'll see - combined with a semolina cream and wonderfully short pastry to form an indulgent tart.
sweet shortcrust pastry
1½ cups milk
50 grams raw caster sugar
50 grams fine semolina
3 egg yolks
Note: if apricots aren't in season just use canned ones.
Make the Poached Apricots:
I always make more poached apricots than needed for the tart as they are delicious to eat by themselves. You'll need to make a light syrup at a ratio of 1 part sugar to 2 parts water - I also add a little vanilla bean paste to the mix.
Place the water and sugar into a pan on a medium heat - stir in a little vanilla bean paste and keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Allow the mixture to come up to simmering point and simmer for 5 minutes before adding the apricots. Turn the heat down and let them very gently poach for 5 minutes or until you see that they have started to soften. Remove from the heat - place a lid on the pan and let them seep until cold.
Store the cold poached apricots in the fridge in their syrup.
Make the Semolina Cream:
Put the milk, sugar and semolina in a pan and whisk over a gentle heat until the mixture is smooth. Keep stirring with a spoon until the mixture thickens.
Remove from the heat and whisk vigorously to knock out a bit of the heat before adding the egg yolks, one at a time, whisking well until they are combined.
Place this mix into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap - make sure the wrap rests against the semolina cream as this prevents it from forming a skin. Allow this to cool before using.
Make the tart:
Remove the apricots from the syrup and place on paper towels to soak up any excess syrup.
Roll out the pastry to form a rough circle - a little larger than the cake pan you are using. Lay the pastry into the pan allowing the pastry to drape over the edge.
Fill the tart with semolina cream and then gently place the poached apricots in the cream. Fold the edges over to carefully rest over the mixture.
Bake in a preheated 170°C oven until the pastry is golden and the cream has set - this takes around 40 minutes for a 20cm tart.
Let the tart cool completely before removing from the tin.
Now, if making pastry isn't your thing then I've also come up with another idea that just uses the semolina cream and poached apricots.
Using individual brûlée dishes I've three-quarter filled them the warm semolina cream and inserted an apricot half into the center. Bake them in a 170°C oven until the cream has set. Dredge them with icing sugar and torch the top to create that brûlée crust.
You don't have the crisp pastry but you do have to crack through that lovely sugar crust.
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