Monday, June 24, 2013

Apricot Crème Fraîche Tart with Honey and Pistachios


Apricots tend to be the red-headed stepchild of the stone fruit family. Compared with peaches, cherries, and even plums, apricots don't get much love.




The good ones, small and intensely flavored with a pink blush on their skin, have a short season and don't travel well. For this reason, many people only get to experience apricots in their dried form, where they lose their ambrosial quality and velveteen texture.


I don't even remember enjoying an apricot until I went to work at Petite Patisserie several years ago. Rachel, the chef and owner, knew that the heirloom Blenheim variety is where it's at, and for a few glorious weeks in the spring, we got cases of the pale orange beauties with densely flavorful flesh and blushing skin.


Just as I developed a fierce love of apricots, California got hit with an obnoxious weather pattern wherein a warm, sunny winter would give way to a stormy spring. The pelting rain would knock the early apricot blossoms off the trees leaving us with a meager harvest. This continued for several years. I thought it rather rude.


But things were different this year – no torrential Spring downpours (though it is currently drizzling, which is virtually unheard of in California come late June). Our lovely co-op has been stocking buckets of tiny, pristine apricots that, when ripe, taste like they descended straight from heaven. I finally saved enough from the fate of being ripped in half with my fingers and eaten over the sink to bake into this tart.


I decided to pair the orange fruit with bright green pistachios in the form of a press-in crust that comes together in a snap and tastes like shortbread cookies. The pistachios led me to use honey as the sweetener, which all seemed rather Mediterranean. A crème fraîche custard gets poured around the apricots and baked until set, and a drizzle of honey and flurry of chopped pistachios finish the top. 


The tangy custard contrasts buttery crust and meltingly soft fruit, and the floral notes in the honey accentuate the apricots, their flavor condensed and heightened in the heat of the oven. 


This tart is ridiculously simple. The whole thing comes together in about 15 minutes of active time: whizzing the crust ingredients in a food processor, pressing it into the pan and baking it sans pie weights; whisking crème fraîche, egg yolk and honey into a simple custard; halving the apricots and removing their loose pits.


I'm pretty keen on this tart.


But then, I do tend to be rather fond of red-headed stepchildren. 


Apricot Appreciation:
Apricot Crème Fraîche Tart with Honey and a Pistachio Crust

Inspired by Deborah Madison's Fig Custard Tart from Local Flavors

The apricots are the star of the show here, so be sure to use ones that are ripe and flavorful. Blenheims are a wonderful variety, if you can find them. 

You can make your own crème fraîche by stirring together 1 cup of heavy cream and 1 tablespoon of buttermilk in a jar. Let it sit at room temperature, stirring once or twice, until thickened slightly, 12-24 hours. Refrigerate. 

 If you lack a food processor, you can easily make the crust by hand by chopping the pistachios finely and adding them to the other ingredients, then working everything together with your fingertips or a pastry blender until the butter is incorporated and the dough begins to clump together. Do allow enough time for this tart to cool completely before serving. If the custard is still too soft, chill the tart for an hour or so to firm it up. 

Makes one 8- or 9-inch tart

Pistachio Crust:
1/4 cup powdered sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on the finished tart
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup raw, unsalted, shelled pistachios, plus a handful, chopped, for finishing the tart
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" chunks
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Apricot Crème Fraîche Filling:
1 pound small ripe but firm apricots
3/4 cup crème fraîche
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons honey, plus 1 or 2 more for drizzling over the finished tart

Make the crust:
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350º.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the powdered sugar, salt and flour to combine. Add the pistachios, the cold butter cubes, and the almond extract, and pulse until the mixture just begins to clump together. Dump the crumbs into an 8 or 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough into the sides of the pan first, then the bottom, taking time to make square corners, a neat top, and an even thickness. (If the dough becomes soft or sticky, put the whole pan in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes to firm it up again.)

Prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork. Freeze the crust until firm, 15 minutes, or wrap for longer storage. 

Place the tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet for easy maneuvering, and bake the unlined crust until it looks dry and is pale golden around the edges, 15-18 minutes, rotating after 10 minutes for even cooking. If the crust has slipped down, use the back of a spoon to push it back up the sides of the pan.

Make the filling:
Halve the apricots and remove the pits. Arrange them, cut side up, in the warm tart shell in concentric circles starting with the outer layer and moving inward.

In a small bowl, whisk together the crème fraîche, egg yolk, and 2 tablespoons of honey. Pour the custard evenly over the apricots.

Bake the tart until the custard is set when you shake the pan, 50-60 minutes, rotating halfway through for even baking. Let the tart cool completely. If the custard is still too soft, chill the tart for an hour or so.

Just before serving, drizzle the honey over the top and sprinkle with the chopped pistachios. Remove the sides of the pan by placing the tart on a can or inverted bowl or ramekin and easing off the sides.

Serve wedges of the tart chilled or at room temperature. It will keep, refrigerated, for up to three days. The crust will soften slightly, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing.

27 comments:

  1. This is just spectacular, I love everything about it. It's pretty much the ideal summer dessert, and so simple!

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  2. This is so, so gorgeous. Sometimes I'm reading other blogs and have a peculiar feeling--not quite jealousy, but rather the intense desire to have made & conceived of the dish they are showcasing. (That might sound negative, but it's actually meant to be a compliment.) Anyhow, that's how I felt about this dish. It's beautiful, and I imagine the flavors all work perfectly together. Thank you for sharing--and your cat is cracking me up!

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    1. OMG, Elizabeth, I totally know what you're talking about! I experience that about twenty times a day. I would add "and photographed" to the list. ;)

      Thank you for the kind compliment - very much taken as one! Our cat regularly cracks us up too.

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  3. Lovely! I love apricots and pistachios and I'm totally gonna make this awesome tart! Thank you for the recipe.

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  4. Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful.

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  5. Oh...heavenly apricots! I didn't know about Blenheims; I'll look for them specifically. But you're right, Alanna, it's hard enough to find any decent apricots in the markets because they have to ripen off the tree...not the same! This tart is GORGEOUS and must smell and taste divine. And that photo of the demur, apricot Catamus is adorable!

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    1. Thanks, Mom! I love that picture of Catamus, too. Is he the cutest in the world, or does every parent think that?

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  6. Oh man, the colors of this tart are beautiful!! Not to mention how delicious it sounds (pistachios!!! my favorite!). I can imagine how well all these flavors and textures came together. Dang, this is making me wish that apricot season wasn't coming to close! (Speaking of no more apricots, I had a total "duh!" moment when I was eating crappy Japanese takeout with my parents for dinner tonight. My dad and I were talking about how much we love duck sauce, and then I remembered that duck sauce is made from apricots, and I think I may have missed my opportunity to make a homemade version this year. Noooooo!)

    And omg, how handsome is your orange kitty??? I have an orange kitty, and he's a funny little bastard. I definitely think they tend to have really big personalities. Mine pretty much lives outside in the summer and thinks he owns the block. I hear cat fights at 6:00am. Guh. :P

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    1. I had no idea duck sauce was made from apricots - yum! I think I've had it with plum sauce, which I know you could make an incredible version of. Mmm...peking duck... When's dinner? ;)

      What's your orange kitty's name? He sounds sassy! Ours has a big personality, too - a big wimpy personality! He once made it up the stairs to the apartment above us. We realized he was missing when we heard a throaty yowling coming from the stariwell. He was crouched down, pupils dilated, totally freaked out. I had to carry him downstairs and into the safety of the apartment. Poor guy!

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    2. Also, thanks for the kind words, Carey! :)

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    3. His name is Izzy (short of Isosceles — I was watching a lot of Seinfeld at the time) and he is SO sassy. He climbs tress and follows people down the sidewalk. It's ridiculous. :)

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    4. Izzy! He sounds like adorable trouble. :)

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  7. Oh my god Alanna you make me wanna eat my screen!!! This tart looks absolutely fantastic!!! Apricots are so good when baked I can only imagine how they taste with creme fraiche and honey!
    xox Amy

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    1. Aw, thanks, Amy! You're such a sweetheart. :)

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  8. Oh my gosh, Alanna, these photos are amazing! And what a delicious-sounding dish. If it tastes as beautiful as it looks, then it will be mind-blowing. Love that you used pistachios in the crust! I have a bunch of them around my house, you're inspiring me to put them to good use with something creative like this :)

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    1. Wow, thanks, Eva. Can't wait to see what you do with them! (I should not read your site when I'm hungry - pure torture!)

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  9. SO beautiful!! I love the added color the pistachios give to this tart - absolutely stunning!

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  10. I love apricots! This tart is so beautiful and I bet the flavors are simply amazing! Your cat is also adorable :)

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    1. Thanks, Laura! It was SOOO good, I wish we hadn't eaten it all. Helios is a cutie, and he totally knows it, too. :)

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  11. Hallo Alanna, your tart is very amazing, normally I mixed pie crust with almond, never tried it with pistachio, great idea, I'll try it. thanks. Regards to Helios!:-) Amallia

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  12. I didn't immediately find creme fraiche so went with Mexican crema. Will that work? Was concerned it might be too liquid but after all it's a custard. Actually I'm less concerned about that then my constant 'tasting' of the crema which might not leave me enough for the tart...

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    1. Mexican crema sounds like a perfect substitute and one I wouldn't have though of - brilliant! That should be delicious. I have problems with "tasting" things like creme fraiche and ricotta, too. :)

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Nice comments make me warm and fuzzy!