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.
One year ago:
Two years ago:
Three years ago:
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
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.