There are so many gorgeous fruits in the market right now my head just spins when I go shopping. Cherries, apricots, peaches, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, melons of all kinds, nectarines, plum. Oh, I am dizzy with excitement. Often we just have them “straight” in a fruit salad or with a little bit of cream (see peaches and cream here) but I also like to bake desserts: tarts, pies, buckles, cakes, fruit crisps, even muffins with the fruit of the moment. I do make a lot of tarts though and I have a tip for you: I make the tart pastry in advance and keep it in the fridge until needed. It keeps for a number of days just refrigerated, and then I can pull it out and make a tart or little tartlettes on the spur of the moment. It makes the process so much easier when you don’t have to make everything from the beginning. So I came back from my last excursion to the local farmers markets (yes, plural, I go to ALL of them ever time) with mounds of gorgeous little apricots. Some were made into jam-like spread (no canning for me, it’s eat as you go here), and some made it into these lovely and delicious little fruit tarts. I try to make the individual little tarts instead of a larger one, I like them served this way and I can send some home with friends and family instead of sending them home with a slice from a larger tart. What else? Yes, tart molds. It’s a good idea to have a few individual tart molds in your kitchen, the kind with the removable bottom. They make it easy to remove the baked tarts and create a lovely fluted edge around. So, here is the recipe, I hope it works for you as well.
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces, very cold (or use vegetables shortening for a vegan version)
4 tablespoons ice water (about)
Place flour, salt and sugar in food processor and pulse a few times to blend. Add cold butter and pulse a few times to break down the butter. Mix until butter is coated with the flour and the mixture is crumbly. Do not over mix.
Add the water, a tablespoon at a time and run the processor until mixture begins to clump together but does not form a ball quite yet (see image below).
Empty the dough onto a board or your clean counter and bring it together with your hands. You can sprinkle the work surface with a light dusting of flour to prevent the buttery dough from sticking. Work fairly quickly because you do not want your warm hands to melt the butter in the pastry. As soon as you have a ball of pastry smooth it to bring it together and then wrap in plastic and refrigerate until cold, at least 30 minutes or overnight. I make this dough days in advance, then cut it in half, wrap each half with plastic and refrigerate until needed. I cut it in half so I can make a small number of tarts (4 maybe) without rolling out the whole dough.
When ready to proceed remove dough from the fridge and let it warm up on the counter for a while but only until it is pliable enough to roll. You will be working with a cold dough, so don’t bring it to room temperature. You want a cold dough but the butter has to be pliable enough to roll smoothly. I usually beat the ball of dough a few times (ouch) with the roller to soften the butter and flatten it into a disk, I think it warms up faster that way.
Have individual small tart pans ready for the pastry (use muffin pan if you don’t have tart molds but invest in a few if you can, the ones with the removable bottom).
On a lightly floured surface roll the dough into a circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter cut the dough into rounds just large enough to fit into the tart molds you are using with enough for the sides. When you finish placing the pastry in the muffin cups or tart molds place them in the fridge to chill again. This can be done a day in advance. Cover with plastic and keep in the fridge overnight, or let it chill for 30 minutes before baking. No need to bring back to room temperature before baking as you want the pastry to remain cold.
Making the tarts:
About 24 small apricots or 2-3per individual tart
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups cream
2 tablespoons sugar
Additional sugar for sprinkling on the pastry and the apricots.
Depending on the size of the apricots you have, cut each into halves or quarters. Sprinkle sugar over them and toss gently.
Sprinkle a little sugar on the bottom of each tart shell.
Lay a few apricot pieces close together in each shell.
Combine the cream, eggs and sugar and whisk to blend.
Drizzle cream and egg mixture over apricots just to the edge of the pastry, being careful not to drip over the pastry edges.
Sprinkle a little sugar over the tarts.
Bake in 400℉ oven for about 25 minutes or until puffed and golden and set inside. Custard inside should giggle a bit but a knife inserted should come out clean. Tarts will puff up and then fall back to the level of the pastry edges.
Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream. Lovely.
Optional: do what the French do. Melt some apricot jam, strain it and brush it over the tarts. It gives them a nice glaze.