Thursday, August 25, 2011

Apricot and Raspberry Crumble Tart

Desserts take on a new and wonderful character in the late summer when the orchards, fields and markets are full of fresh, voluptuous fruits. You’ll hear people who answer the question, “What’s your favorite dessert?” with, “Oh, I just love a really nice, fresh piece of fruit.” Those people drive me crazy!

A nice fresh piece of fruit all on its own is more like a salad to me. To take something like this lovely bunch of apricots I recently got my hands on and make them dessert, I believe they should be applied in the tart/crisp hybrid, a sort of crumble-topped tart, from Seasonal Fruit Desserts by Deborah Madison.

It was tempting to keep these plump, smooth, soft apricots around just for touching (I don’t get many visitors). This tart, however, with its almond-loaded crust, some of which is mixed a little differently and crumbled on top of the fruit mixture, proved even more tantalizing. The crust is easy to whip together with a food processor and presses easily into a tart pan. After that, apricots and raspberries, sweetened just a bit, are piled in and then topped with the crumb mixture.

As beautiful as all this sounds, I was skeptical most of the way through the process. Fresh apricots, even when ripe and flavorful, can also be quite sour, and these were no exception. Surely the ¼ cup of brown sugar in the filling wasn’t going to be enough. Surely this great pile of fruit was going to boil over or turn into a sloppy juice that leaked everywhere and turned the crust to mush. And then, as I peeked in at the baking tart, I was convinced that the apricots weren’t going to soften or release any juices at all.

Happily, I was wrong about all of that stuff. Each bite was all about the flavors of the fruit and almonds without any tooth-aching sweetness (which I wasn’t worried about) or wincing sourness (which I kind of was). There was just the right amount of thickened juices to hold the fruit together and allow the tart to be served as slices, rather than bowlfuls as a crisp or cobbler would be (although there’s still plenty of room for an accompanying scoop of vanilla ice cream). This tart/crisp hybrid, all in all, is just right.

I would love to try this with other fruits, such as peaches or plums, since fresh apricots are harder to find. I’m afraid, however, that these juicier fruits might make the too-wet tart I was afraid of. With the apricots and raspberries, this tart is as close to perfect as I’ve experienced in a long time, if ever. Really. It’s that good. Perfectly baked apricots, slumped, juicy raspberries and a crisp, almond-infused crust and topping. That sentence doesn’t need a verb, unless it’s “drool.” And if you think dessert is a nice piece of fruit, just try passing on a serving of this real dessert.

Apricot and Raspberry Tart with Crumble Topping
Adapted from Seasonal Fruit Desserts by Deborah Madison

for the crust and topping:
½ cup almonds
1/3 cup light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon fine salt, divided
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold butter, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 egg yolk

for the filling:
4 cups fresh apricots, cut into quarters
1 cup raspberries
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ cup light brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. To make the crust and topping, place the almonds, 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a food processor. Process until the almonds are very finely ground. Remove ½ cup of the almond mixture and place it in a medium-size bowl. Set the bowl aside.

2. Add the 1 cup all-purpose flour and the whole wheat pastry flour to the mixture in the food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and process until the mixture forms coarse crumbs.

3. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the water, vanilla and almond extracts and egg yolk. Whisk or stir together with a fork to combine. Turn on the food processor and gradually add this liquid mixture to the dough with the machine running. Continue processing until the dough comes together into a moist but crumbly ball.

4. Remove ½ cup of the dough and add it to the bowl of reserved almond mixture you removed earlier. Combine the mixtures with a fork or your hands to make coarse crumbs. This will be the crumb topping mixture. Set aside.

5. Press the remaining tart dough into a 9-inch tart pan (I used one with a removable bottom). Use your hands and press the dough as evenly on the bottom and up the sides of the pan as you can. If the dough is too soft to do this easily, refrigerate it for a while until it is firm.

6. In a large bowl combine the apricots, raspberries, 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and ¼ cup brown sugar. Stir gently to coat the fruit.

7. Pour or spoon the mixture into the crust in the tart pan. Arrange the fruit if necessary to make it fit snugly in the pan. It will make a mound, but it should stay together. Sprinkle the topping mixture evenly over the fruit.

8. Place the tart pan on a sheet pan (this will make it easier to handle and catch any drips) and place it in the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes. Check the tart and if the topping is already well-browned, cover loosely with foil. Continue baking about 15 minutes more. The crust and topping should be nicely browned and the fruit will have released some juices. Cool before serving. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream if desired.

Makes 6-8 servings. The tart is best served soon after cooling when the crust and topping are crisp. You can cover and refrigerate leftovers, however, to serve later if you don’t mind a still delicious if slightly soggy crust.

Other recipes like this one: Cherry Plum Crisp, Plum Upside Down Yogurt Cake

One year ago: Plum Upside Down Yogurt Cake

Two years ago: Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Olives

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