An Apricot Tart

Who doesn’t love stone fruit? I mean aren’t they just the perfect fruits? Sweet and juicy (and apparently cherries lower your blood sugar – who knew?) and always delicious.  Stone fruit season started about a month ago, and due to a particularly cool and wet winter, there is a bumper crop of stone fruit this year.  Apricots in particular have a short season, so I decided to take advantage of it while I could.  Two years ago I made apricot crostadas, last year I was being good and not baking too much, and this year I decided to make a simple, delicious apricot tart.  Well, in this case, tartlets.  I was in the mood, so why not?

Apricot Tart

I looked around on the internet and there are not that many recipes involving apricots, probably because of their short growing season.  So I decided to take some artistic license and make up a recipe, based on another one.  Now there will be one more apricot recipe out there.

I was inspired by this recipe from pastry studio (she has a lot of great recipes, and tips for the less experienced baker so make sure to check out her site), but decided to make proper tartlets in my mini tart pans as opposed to a galette.  And I went with my tried and true Sweet Tart Dough that always comes out so delicious and flaky.

When I mixed up the filling I decided that it looked a little dry so to add a bit of flavor I added some almond extract (don’t tell Rocker Dude!  I only mentioned it after he had tried a bite 🙂 ) and it really made the tart something special.  The filling is still simple enough that the flavor of the apricots really shines through. Even the Little rocker enjoyed the tart, though that might have been because she was watching The Backyardigans Samurai Pie episode and they kept talking about pies.

This recipe would also work well as a tart, if you prefer family style serving.

Recipe (makes 7 4-inch tartlets or one 9 inch tart):

Crust:

Sweet Tart Dough

Filling:

8 apricots, stoned and sliced into eighths
1/4 cup sugar (a bit more if the apricots are particularly tart – baking the apricots makes the tartness come out)
1 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. almond extract

Prepare the tart dough until the refrigeration stage.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Then mix all the filling ingredients together.  Let it sit while you roll out the tart dough.  Lay the tart dough in the tart pan(s) and place apricot slices in concentric circles to make a decorative filling.

Bake the tartlets for 25 minutes or so, until the crust is lightly browned and the filling is bubbling gently, a full-size tart will take longer, probably about 40 minutes or so.  Let cool.  Enjoy!

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Fig Almond Tartelettes

The holidays are over!  After about three weeks of on-and-off holidays (Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkoth) we are finally returning to normal life.  Rocker Dude, the Little Rocker and I have had a lot of fun over the past few weeks.  We spent about a week and a half at the in-laws, and the Little Rocker was spoiled silly (isn’t that their job in the world?  I always thought so).  We also had a birthday party for her as you saw in this post, though I will make a separate post about the birthday cake – who likes Elmo?

On Friday I went to the Farmer’s Market here in Givat Shmuel as I usually do on Fridays.  I got the awesome pickles that I love from a kibbutz, and I looked around for other things to inspire me.  There was one stand with four different types of cherry/grape tomatoes – they were so fresh!  I brought about a kilo of those home, and then I saw the figs.  I thought I had missed fig season when it started in August because we then flew to the US and when we came back, all the figs that I saw were mushy and not appealing.  Not these figs.  They were soft but not mushy, and they tasted so good!  I have never had a fresh fig before as they are not common in the northeast being more of a warm weather fruit.  I was a little hesitant as I had tried fresh guavas last week and they were nasty.

Look at these beauts!

Dried figs are good, but after three or four, they kind of lose their appeal.  And dried figs feel like they are just full of seeds and nothing else.  So I bought a container and decided to bake something with them for the Sabbath.  I remembered seeing a lot of interesting recipes and as I have not baked anything really elegant in a while, I figured that something with figs qualifies as elegant.

I looked through some of the blogs that I follow, and came across this Fig and Almond Tartelette on Tartelette’s blog.  Her food always looks so elegant and her photography is gorgeous.  One day I hope that I can attend one of her  lectures on photography.

Almond Fig Tart

I know that Rocker Dude doesn’t like almonds, but he doesn’t like figs that much either, so I decided that this dessert was not for him – it was for the other 8 people at the table.  I made Tartelette’s pie crust, a crust that did not require refrigeration before rolling out, though I froze it for an hour before baking it.

Tart crust before adding liquid
Out with the old and in with the new. I got these from my mom's pantry when we went to the US in January, good thing I took both! Thanks Imma!

It did shrink a tiny bit, but not enough to ruin the shape.  I knew that we were going to be 9 people for dinner and I only have 8 tartelette pans, so I decided to make this into one big tart and serve it in slices.  In order to make sure I had enough, I doubled the recipe.  it made enough for one 10 inch tart and two 4 inch tartelettes. Although the recipe originally says to bake the crusts for 30 minutes, I decided to only parbake the crusts as they would be baked again and I did not want to overbake them.

All three tart crusts, parbaked.

The filling was really easy to make.  I ground up the almonds in the food processor and added the rest of the ingredients, including the rum and then poured it into the cooled tart crust.  I have to admit that it didn’t look like there would be enough filling to fill the big tart let alone the two little tartelettes.  But I trusted that Tartelette knows what she is talking about and indeed, I was wrong, and there was plenty.

The filling, before mixing.

Then I gently pressed the fig halves over the filling (after eating two of them) and baked them in the oven.  The filling rose to encase the figs gently.  When they came out, the tarts looked wonderful.

Almond Fig Tart

I did not have apricot jam to glaze the tarts, so I used strawberry.  I figure that if the figs already have a red sort of color, the faint pink of the strawberry and rum would not color the tart too much.  I was right.

A delicious bite.

The tart was well enjoyed by everyone (except for Rocker Dude), though you could really feel the alcohol.  My ex-roommate R. was over for the weekend and brought a nice dessert wine, and they paired very nicely together.  R. is training right now to run the Venice marathon at the end of the month – she is crazy.  But if anyone in the Jerusalem area is looking for a personal trainer or a massage therapist, she is certified in both and is really good.  (She used to practice on me and Rocker Dude while she was learning – free massages anyone?)

Make this tart – and feel fancy!

Recipe (adapted from Helene of Tartelette):

Fig Almond Tartelettes

Makes 1 10-inch tart and 2 4-inch tartelettes

For crust
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons ice water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For filling

2/3 cup whole almonds (about 4 ounces)
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
8 teaspoons rum
24 ounces ripe figs, cut into halves (about 8 )
1/2 cup strawberry (or apricot) jam

Make crust:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine first 3 ingredients in processor. Using on/off turns, cut in butter until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Mix 4 tablespoons ice water and vanilla in small bowl. Pour water mixture over dough. Process until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Roll out on floured surface to 12-inch round.  Fit into tart pan and trim excess dough. Roll out the excess dough to fit the tartelette pans.  Freeze the dough in the pan for at least 30 minutes.  Using fork, pierce dough all over. Bake crust until pale golden, about 20 minutes (crust may shrink slightly). Cool on rack. Maintain oven temperature.

Make filling:
Finely grind almonds with sugar in processor. Add eggs, butter and 4 teaspoons rum. Process until batter forms. Pour filling into crust. Arrange fig halves atop filling. Bake until figs are tender and filling is golden and set, about 25 minutes.
Melt jelly with remaining 4 teaspoons rum in heavy small saucepan over medium-low heat. Brush jelly mixture over figs. Cool tarts. Serve at room temperature.

Biscotti – the joy and the disappointment. Happy Birthday Rocker Dude!

It’s Rocker Dude’s birthday today, so I decided to make him a present.  Rocker Dude has few loves in his life.  His music, his comics, his Little Rocker, oh right, and me ;).  One of the things he really enjoys is biscotti.  Not the hard dried cookie that you normally see dipped in coffee, but the biscotti that I make, soft with a crispy outside.  He also loves biscotti because of the word.  He is a research assistant for an Italian professor (he is Italian, not that he teaches Italian) in bar Ilan University.  This basically means that he makes sure that the professor’s computer is well-stocked with music and spending a lot of time chatting.  Rocker Dude once told this professor, M., about my biscotti.  M. gave him a confused look until Rocker Dude explained.  Then he replied, “Oh, you mean biscott-i!” in a proper Italian accent.  Rocker Dude loves to imitate him saying this.

Biscotti dough, nice and thick.

One day, after Rocker Dude had had a particularly hard day (or maybe it was when he got his job for the fall) I decided to do something nice and make whatever he wanted.  I asked him what he wanted and he said, “biscotti.”  Finally I get a clear request from him.  (Of course he would say that he always gives clear requests, I just ignore them.)

So I took out my trusty dusty biscotti recipe and got baking.  This is an awesome recipe as it doesn’t call for butter so I don’t have to wait to let margarine get to room temperature (I keep it frozen) and it mixes up in one bowl and is ready to bake really quickly.

Biscotti loaves shaped and ready to bake

This time, I decided to do the recipe properly and add almond extract.  Every other time I made this recipe, I just didn’t have almond extract so I just used vanilla.  This time I figured that since I had all the proper ingredients, I would use them, including almond extract.  I know that Rocker Dude does not like nuts, but I figured that the extract could only add to the taste.

So I made the cookies, shaped them and baked them.  They smelled wonderful.  Rocker Dude came home from doing his radio show (www.rock4rookies.com) at 11:30 pm and walked into a fragrant, biscotti-smelling kitchen.  He got so excited because I had made one of his favorite things.

Biscotti, toasted on one side.

Then he took a bite.  He carefully chewed it and then took another bite.  He carefully chewed this too.  Then he asked, “Did you change the recipe?”

I told him that I added almond extract so that I could do the recipe properly.

His face fell.  “Why Elle, why?  Why would you mess with something that is already so perfect?!”

Me: “I just wanted to do the whole recipe.  Does it taste bad?”

RD: “Well, it doesn’t taste like it used to.  It’s all almondy and everything.”

Me: “Will you eat it?”

RD: “Of course, but now I don’t trust your baking anymore.  How do I know you won’t stick almonds into my blueberry cheesecake?!?!” (see post here).

As you can see, we have some trust issues to work out.  I am officially on probation and need to faithfully report any ingredient I use.  Mind you, Rocker Dude ate every one of those cookies, so I don’ t know what he is complaining about.

A couple of days ago when I offered to make Rocker Dude biscotti as a snack, he gave me a look and said, “Can I trust you not to mess with my babies?”  If only he loved us as much.

As a surprise to him, I made him biscotti last night to have when he came home from doing his show.  Because it is his birthday, and I want to be nice to him (and I don’t want to be banned from baking), I made it with only vanilla extract.  The Little Rocker and I tested them when they came out of the oven.  Yum!

I let them cool and when Rocker Dude came home I presented him with fresh-baked biscotti, just the way he likes them :).  They were well appreciated.

Rocker Dude enjoys his birthday present.
Biscotti

Recipe:

3 1/4 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 tbsp. baking powder

1/2 cup oil

3 eggs

1 tbsp. vanilla extract or 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla and 1 tsp. almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (or, if you want a crispier cookie, to 375 degrees).

Mix all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix it around a little with the paddle attachment so that all the ingredients are evenly distributed.  Then add the oil, eggs and extracts.  Mix until just combined.

Divide the dough into two equal portions.  Shape each one into a flat long loaf.  Bake the loaves for 25-30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and slice each loaf into 1 inch thick slices.  Turn each slice on its side and put the baking sheet back in the oven.

Bake for another 5-8 minutes.  Remove the baking sheet and flip each cookie onto the other side.  Bake again for 5-8 minutes.

Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool on a rack.

Dip in coffee or just eat them plain, enjoy!

Tuesdays With Dorie: Swedish Visiting Cake

This week’s TWD recipe was chosen by Nancy of The Dogs Eat the Crumbs.  This cake is special for me because my husband spent a large part of his childhood in Sweden.  His grandparents are Swedish, so every summer he would stay at their house in the Swedish countryside near Goteborg.  When I showed him the picture in the book, he recognized the cake immediately and said that this cake is served everywhere in Sweden.  When I asked if he liked it, he looked at me and said, “it has almonds on top.”  By which I was to infer that he would never try the cake because of the nuts.  To pacify him I told him that I would make the cake without the slivered almonds on top.

The cake is called a visiting cake because, and this Dorie relates in the introduction to the recipe, if you start the cake when you see guests coming up the walk to visit, it will be done by the time they sit down.  It’s true.  This cake was really simple to make, did not even require a kitchen-aid and it cooked really quickly.  I didn’t even need the whole 25 minutes that the recipe called for.

Everyone loved the cake.  it was dense and moist and as I added almond extract it had a strong almond flavor, almost like marzipan.  We had a number of friends over on Friday night and everyone asked for seconds.  But when I looked at Rocker Dude’s plate, he had only eaten half of his piece.

Out of the whole cake, there were only two small pieces left for Saturday.  Just enough for the Little Rocker and me to each have one.  When she woke up from her nap and I asked her what she wanted to eat for lunch, the first thing she said was “Cake” (it sounded more like “kek”, but hey).  She’s my little girl!

The sugar sprinkled on top gave it a nice crisp crust that only added to the texture -yum!  Definitely going to make this one again.

For the recipe check out Nancy’s site here and see what other TWD bakers did here.