Thursday, 15 July 2010

Apple, Almond and Apricot Tart


If you're scared of making pastry, don't be. It really isn't difficult and you don't need any fancy equipment. It just takes a little time. Not particularly in the mixing and kneading, but it needs to rest in the fridge before rolling and, for most tarts, you'll need to blind bake the case. These things aren't complicated and they give you the chance to get on with other things in the meantime. But if you want to whip up a pudding to eat in 20 minutes, think again - you've no time for tart. This tart has a pleasing balance of sharp and sweet and the velvety soft, vanilla-rich creme patissiere, beneath a layer of plump, juicy apricots topped with toasted almonds, is the perfect complement to the crisp bite of the almond pastry and sweet, delicately rum-scented apples beneath.

Apple, Almond and Apricot Tart.

for the pastry

100 g plain flour
100 g ground almonds
25 g icing sugar
100 g of cold butter, cubed
1 egg, beaten or 2 egg yolks if you want a richer pastry.



Place the flour, almonds, sugar and butter in a bowl and rub between your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, just as you would for making crumble. Add half the egg and mix it together, add more egg if needed, but not too much. You want just enough egg to bring the mixture together, but you don't want the pastry to be too damp and you don't want to overwork it, especially at this stage. Place the pastry on a sheet of clingfilm and pat it down so it's about an inch thick and wrap it up. Place the pastry in the fridge for at least half an hour to rest. Alternatively, you can do all this in a magimix, but it's the work of minutes the old fashioned way.

Once the pastry is properly rested and chilled, knead it together a little until you can form a nice shiny ball. Don't overwork it though. This is shortcrust pastry and you want it to remain light and crumbly and overworking the gluten will make it too dense. I like to roll it out between two sheets of clinfilm because you don't need to use flour to stop it sticking and it's easier to line the pastry case afterwards. Take off the top layer of clingfilm and upturn the pastry on to a 9" loose-bottomed pastry case. Keep the clingfilm on the top, while you push the pastry into the tin and use the side of the tin to cut the pastry's edges off. Remove the clingfilm, top with a generous sheet of baking parchment and fill with baking beans or rice, if you haven't got any. Pop it in a preheated oven at 180 C (160 C Fan) and blind bake it for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the pastry feels dry. Remove the beans and paper, paint the pastry with some of the leftover beaten egg and return to the oven for a few minutes. It should be slightly golden, but not brown. Leave the case to cool in its tin on a wire rack.

for the apple puree

Peel and chop 3 - 4 eating apples and place in a pan with a few tablespoons of dark rum. Once the apples are soft, add 1/2 to 1 tbsp of caster sugar. Don't add the sugar at the beginning, because you'll end up needing to use more to get the right sweetness. Once the sugar has dissolved and the apple sauce is thick, blitz it in a blender and leave to cool.

for the apricots

I managed to get my hands on some particularly huge, ripe and juicy apricots, so I quartered them for this tart. For average sized apricots, halving them will suffice. You will need about a punnet's worth, maybe a punnet and a half, but it really depends on the size of the apricots you're using. Place 2 tablespoons of sugar in a large saucepan or skillet over a gentle heat to dissolve. Add the chopped apricots, skin side up and leave to poach for about 10 minutes or until soft. Leave the apricots to cool in their syrup.




for the creme patissiere

You can make this a couple of days before and leave it in the fridge until you want to use it.

4 egg yolks
100 g / 4 oz caster sugar
25 g/ 1 oz plain flour, sifted
12 fl. oz/ 350 ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod or a splash of vanilla extract

Whisk the egg yolk and sugar together in a bowl until pale and thick. Add the flour and mix in. Score the vanilla pod (if using) down the centre and place it in a saucepan with the milk over a gentle heat. Bring the milk slowly up to the boil, fish out the vanilla pod and pour the milk over the egg, sugar and flour mixture, whisking all the time. Tip the mixture back into the saucepan and place it on a low heat, stirring all the time, until it comes up to a gentle boil. Leave it to boil, still stirring, for a couple of minutes, or until the mixture has thickened. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract (if using). Pour the creme patissiere into a cold bowl or jug and cover the top with clingfilm to prevent a skin from forming and leave to cool. If your mixture has gone lumpy, push it through a sieve before decanting into your clean bowl or jug.

Assembly

Toast a couple of handfuls of flaked almonds in a dry frying pan over a high heat. Once golden, tip the almonds into a cold dish and leave to cool. Spread the base of your tart case with your cooled, apple puree. Spoon the creme patissiere over the top and smooth over with a palete knife. Spoon the apricots out of their syrup with a slotted spoon and place, flesh-side down, on top of your pastry cream. Brush over a little boiled, sifted apricot jam if you wish. Scatter the top with the toasted, flaked almonds and place the tart in the fridge to set.

When you're ready to serve, place an upturned bowl or mug on the worktop and rest the tart on top. Slide the sides of the tin down and slide the tart off its base on to a serving plate.

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