Almond Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream and Apricots

Summer: Flowing dresses, colorful toenails in flip-flops, road trips to see the unseen, wind in the hair, splashing water, warm breezy evenings with friends and wine. I adore summertime more than anything else in the world, and I’d gladly give up any other season to have more of it. That’s probably why I love apricots so much – to me they’re a perfect symbol of leisurely summer days, each and every one like a tiny, round, orange sun. I do my best to fill up on them while they’re in season, and also try to preserve the sunshine they embody in any way I can – whether it’s jam, frozen pulp to add to my morning smoothies, or just quartered fruit to throw in my cakes later. Then when we’re in the depth of (rainy and gloomy) winter, I can just open the freezer or pop a jar, and have a dose of apricot sunshine therapy.

I like them best when they’re freckled, mushy, and overripe with sweetness, but of course for baking it’s better to find fruit that’s a little more firm and holds its shape.  Whether to peel it or not, that’s up to you, but I rarely bother. Apricots are a wonderful accompaniment for any of your summer baking endeavors: muffins, quick breads, yeast goods, you name it – everything will taste amazing with apricots in it!

This weekend I’ve decided to make a tart: I filled an almond short crust pastry with vanilla pastry cream, and sat slices of poached apricots on top. The mild tartness of apricots complements the sweet taste of pastry cream very well, but I love the tart’s looks the most: Deep orange, with almond sprinkled all over… Sunshine in every bite.

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Almond Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream and Apricots

Almond tart:
  • 125 g (4.5 oz.) all – purpose flour (for gluten – free alternative, please see Note)
  • 70 g (2.5 oz.) ground dry toasted almonds
  • pinch salt
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 114 g (4 oz., ½ cup) unsalted butter, chilled and diced
  • 2 egg whites, divided
Vanilla Pastry Cream:
  • 2 cups (500 ml, 16 oz.) half-and-half or whipping cream
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 140 g (5 oz.) granulated white sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract (I used Frangelico liqueur instead)
  • 2 teaspoons powdered gelatin, bloomed in 2 tablespoons water
Poached Apricots:
  • 500 g (1 lb.) fresh apricots, halved and pitted
  • 1 l (32 oz.) water (+ extra iced water for cooling the apricots
  • 230 g (8 oz.) granulated white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

+ 140 g (5 oz.) granulated white sugar – for sprinkling the poached fruit
½ cup sliced almonds, divided
40 g (1.5 oz.) apricot preserves, mixed with 15 ml (0.5 oz.) water – to brush the apricots

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Method:
  1. First, prepare the tart shell: Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl of your food processor; pulse couple of times until combined.
  2. Add chilled/cubed butter, and pulse until the butter resembles peas. Add the egg white and mix just until the dough comes together in a ball. Wrap the dough and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper into a rectangle that fits into a 13 x 4 inch (33 x 10 cm) tart pan with removable bottom. The dough should be about 1/8 (3 – 4 mm) thick. Chill the rolled out rectangle for about 20 minutes so it’s easier to transfer into the pan. When it’s chilled, peel off the top parchment paper and invert it into your pan. Chill again for 20 – 30 minutes while you preheat the oven to 375 °F (190 °C).
  4. Place a sheet of parchment paper onto the dough in the pan and fill it with pie weights or dry beans. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until set. Remove the parchment with weights/beans, brush the tart with a beaten egg white and continue to bake for 10 – 15 minutes more until golden brown. Let cool completely in the pan.
  5. Make the pastry cream: Combine powdered gelatin with water and set aside to bloom.
  6. In a saucepan, heat the half-and-half/cream with sugar, almond extract and vanilla extract. Mix the egg yolks with cornstarch, temper the mixture with a little of warm cream/yolk mixture and pour it into the rest of the cream/yolk mixture in the pan, whisking constantly. Cook for about 2 – 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the pudding thickens and remove it from the heat.
  7. Let the vanilla cream cool a little, and then liquefy the gelatin over a pot of hot water and mix it into the hot vanilla pastry cream. Set aside for now.
  8. Make the poached apricots: Bring the water, sugar, and vanilla to a boil. Add the halved fruit and cook over a medium heat for 2 – 4 minutes, until the apricots are soft when pierced with a fork, but not mushy. Immediately place them into a bowl of iced water.
  9. Pour the lukewarm vanilla pastry cream into the tart shell and sprinkle it with half of the sliced almonds. Chill in the refrigerator.
  10. Drain the apricots and cut them into neat slices (3 – 4 slices per half) and sprinkle them with sugar. Let stand for couple of minutes.
  11. Arrange the apricots on the pastry cream. Warm up the apricot jelly with water, brush the fruit and sprinkle it with the rest of the sliced almonds.
  12. Return to the refrigerator and chill until serving.

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Note:

To make the tart gluten – free, replace the all – purpose flour with your favorite flour mix (don’t forget to add 1 teaspoon guar/xanthan gum if your mix doesn’t contain it already). I usually mix my own flour mixes, but for this recipe I used Bob’s Red Mill Pie flour mix, and it worked beautifully. Please check that your vanilla and almond extracts are gluten – free as well; gluten often hides in the most unexpected places!

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