It's Great British Bake-Off time on the telly, where the contestants vie for the top prize with increasingly ambitious bakes and not a soggy bottom in sight. I was gifted a tray of tomcot apricots when I went on a blogger day at the Thompson & Morgan garden recently, so my thoughts also turned to baking and the art of producing a simple-to-goodness tart.
If memory serves, dessert tarts require a sweet pastry, a baked custard made with cream, and a sugar-glazed coating. I wanted to produce something lighter and less sugary which allowed the flavour of the fresh apricots to shine through. This resulted in the following version, which judging by NAH's reaction was a success... "Will you marry me?", said he after taking his first taste.
Of course I had to refuse. I'm a happily married woman.
Butter for greasing
200g ready-made shortcrust pastry*
A little plain flour for rolling out the pastry
1 tablespoon sugar, plus a further 50g**
2 tablespoons ground almonds
2 large eggs
150 ml skimmed milk
4-5 drops almond essence
* = the packets of ready-made pastry are usually 500g, so you could make a quiche at the same time like I did. In this instance it was the variation I cited recently in my Courgettes with Lemon and Thyme recipe. Use this shortcrust pastry recipe if you want to make your own.
** = I used golden granulated sugar, to which for some reason NAH added the last remains of a packet of muscovado sugar left in the cupboard. That explains the dark brown bits you can see in the picture above. You can use whatever you have to hand or a drizzle of honey.
- Butter a 25cm diameter flan dish, ensuring both bottom and sides are well covered
- Coat the surface where the pastry's going to be rolled out with a thin layer of flour
- Roll out the pastry to a size a little larger than the dish's diameter plus its sides
- Place the pastry on the dish, ensuring it's pressed well into the sides
- Prick the pastry generously with a fork and allow to rest for 30 minutes in the fridge ***
- Whilst the pastry is resting, pre-heat the oven to 200oC (170 for fan-assisted ovens)/Gas Mark 6
- Halve the apricots, de-stone them and place on a non-stick baking tray
- Sprinkle with the 1 tablespoon of sugar (or less) as shown in the top picture.
- When the pastry's well-rested, trim off the excess pastry, add some baking beans to the dish and bake-blind in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the base is crisp, but not browned. The apricots can be baked at the same time.
- Remove the pastry base and apricots from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- Place the base on a baking tray
- Add the ground almonds and ensure they form an even layer all over the base
- Place the apricots on top of the almonds - as well as tasting good, the almonds are key to preventing a soggy bottom due to the juicy apricots
- In a bowl quickly whisk together the eggs, milk, 50g sugar and almond essence, then pour the mixture over the apricots
- Bake for 20-25 minutes at the same temperature as before, or until the top is browned and the custard mixture is set
Serves 6-8 slices depending on your generosity. Serve warm or cooled with some Greek yoghurt or half-fat creme fraiche if desired.
*** = Don't worry if you forget to do this, you'll end up with a pastry base with little or no sides like I did. The end result was still good enough to merit a marriage proposal.