Sunday, July 29, 2007

Gifts from Above

Just a quick note, actually, to keep the pace going as I prepare to leave town for a sail around the Greek Islands! Yes, lucky girl that I am, a friend in the Peace Corps in Ukraine with a spirit for adventure (as if a Peace Corps assignment isn’t adventure enough) has organized a "little something" that was too good to pass, I’m off until the middle of August.

As we enjoy the first days of August from our various regions of the world, I wanted to share a little "slice" of Provence and the bounty of summer.

This particular "bounty" is a gift from the apricot tree that grows on the other side of the wall in my courtyard and has "gifted" me with a regular shower of fruit in these last weeks. Some have ended up in Bodhi’s belly while others made it into this lovely tart. I’m not sure who had the most pleasure from the surprise harvest, but it’s been a good season for all!

There have been several warm summer nights on this little courtyard with friends visiting from the US recently...and a few “locals” coming inside for a little “look-see” in an attempt to escape a bit of the heat.

From the shadow of Sainte Victoire, I will be off for a couple of weeks with plenty to share upon my return. In the meantime, this is a lovely taste of summer sunshine...the drizzle of lavender honey (and there are a couple of Minnesotans who have a bit of this on hand) adds an extra little “curtsy” to Provence.

Bon Appétit!

Apricot Tart with Lavender Honey
(Adapted from Patricia Wells’ At Home in Provence)

The Pastry:
8 T. unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus additional for preparing tart pan
1/2 cup sugar
A pinch of fine sea salt
1/8 t. pure almond extract
1/8 t. pure vanilla extract
2 T. finely ground blanched almonds
1 1/4 cups plus 1 T. flour

The filling:
5 T. heavy cream
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 t. pure almond extract
1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
1 T, flour
2 T. finely ground blanched almonds

4 T. finely ground blanched almonds
1 1/2 lbs. fresh apricots, pitted and halved (do not peel)
Lavender honey for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F

2. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch (23cm) fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, salt, almond and vanilla extracts and almonds. Stir with a wooden spoon to blend. Gradually add enough flour to form a soft cookie-like dough. Place the dough in the center of the buttered pan. Using the tips of your fingers, evenly press the pastry along the bottom and up the sides of the pan. The pastry will be quite thin. (You do not need to weight or prick the shell.)

4. Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake until the dough is slightly puffy and turns a very pale brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. Do not turn off the oven.

5. Meanwhile make the filling: In a medium-size bowl, combine the cream, egg, almond and vanilla extracts and whisk to blend. Stir in the sugar, flour, and ground almonds.

6. Sprinkle 2 T. of the ground almonds on top of the pre-baked pastry shell. (They will prevent the crust from becoming soggy.)

7. Arrange the apricots in a single layer in the pastry shell. Starting just inside the edge of the pan, neatly overlap the halved apricots, cut side up, at an angle. Arrange in two or three concentric circles, working toward the center. Fill in the center with the remaining apricots. Pour the filling evenly over the pastry. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 T. of ground almonds.

8. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the center of the oven and bake until the filling is firm and the pastry is a deep golden brown, 50 to 60 minutes. The apricots will shrivel slightly. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool. Drizzle with lavender honey just before serving.

Serves 8.

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