Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fresh Arrivals (Apricot Almond Ginger Tart)

I've waited weeks on tenterhooks for the first fresh cherries to arrive to market, but in the meantime chose to console myself with a clutch of glowingly golden apricots. I had ulterior motives. We'd also been eagerly awaiting the birth of our third nephew, Oliver, who at the time of writing this article was slightly overdue, and I figured a little light folk medicine couldn't hurt. Elizabethan England held the belief that apricots induced labor, which is why they feature in the play The Duchess of Malfi, where her nefarious brothers expose her pregnancy with a slyly offered bowl of apricots. It has no basis in science whatsoever, but might as well be worth a try. To gussy up the presentation, I decided to toss the apricots with fresh ginger, then layer them into a tart mantled in slivered almonds.

For your viewing pleasure
Apricots are like small peaches or plums, with a delicate flavor that can range from tart to sweet. Their flavor intensifies significantly when dried, but note the jewel-toned ones are treated with sulfur dioxide, muting their flavor in exchange for brilliant aesthetics. A dark brown, sun-dried apricot may look like the devil, but it tempers the taste into a luscious bass. Fresh, ripe specimens and their resulting preserves should be prized for combining flavor and color that are refreshingly light. As almonds and the various stone fruits (such as apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, and plums) are all inter-related, toasty almonds are a natural flavor pairing. The zesty ginger root livens things up, lending peppery, aromatic pungency.

In the process of being stoned
The tart is an immortal and elegant delivery mechanism. Apricots are not especially juicy, so a pillow of mascarpone and a robe of apricot preserves add extra moisture and softness for accompaniment. I used a version of my mother's super-simple oil pastry crust recipe for a base of rich crumbliness, here gaining extra silkiness from nature's shortening: coconut oil. The resulting combination hits crisp, crunchy, tender, melting, and succulently saucy textures that help carry the flavor across the palate. It does require ample cooling time; if the filling is hot it spills and flows everywhere.

Suspect birthing lore aside, the apricot has been cultivated since 3000 BCE in Armenia. They're certainly a healthier Armenian import than the Kardashians, with high fiber and vitamins A and C. Along with vitamin E from the almonds, the healthy fats of the coconut oil, and whole wheat flour, this isn't the worst dessert that you could eat. For what it's worth, Oliver was born within 24 hours of serving the tart. Anecdotal evidence is the bane of scientists everywhere. Even without an expectant mother in your life, this makes for a delicious way to highlight seasonal fruit.

Apricot almond ginger tart

This tart is sweet, tangy, and super easy. In the interests of gilding the lily, non-pregnant diners would especially appreciate a garnish of amaretto whipped cream. For a vegan alternative, replace the mascarpone with almond butter or cashew cream. Serves about 8.

2 c whole wheat flour
2 tbs turbinado sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 c coconut oil, melted (immerse sealed jar in warm water)
6 tbs ice water

For the filling:

8 oz mascarpone cheese, softened
8 oz +2 oz apricot preserves
About 8 fresh apricots, stoned and quartered
1" fresh ginger root, peeled and minced

1/2 c almonds, sliced and toasted, topping

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large glass bowl.

Make a well in the ingredients and pour in the melted coconut oil.

Whisk gently while sprinkling in the ice water, a tablespoon at a time. The dough will form large crumbs.

Scrape the dough into a fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and use your hands to press it into the bottom and up the sides.

Easy as pie
Spread the mascarpone cheese in an even layer over the crust, then do the same with the first 8 ounces of apricot preserves, and sprinkle the minced ginger on top.

A vigorous stirring should yield readily spread preserves
Arrange the quartered fresh apricots over the tart, then brush with the remaining preserves.

Ready for lift-off
Bake for about 20 minutes, until bubbling and golden-brown, then remove from the oven to a wire rack, sprinkle with toasted almonds, and allow to cool completely.


1 comment:

Robin Sommo said...

excellent column, and the recipe sounds delicious. Congratulations on the writing, the cooking, and the uncle-ing, all!