We received fresh apricots in our CSA box this week. I took a bite of one, and suddenly thought – I don’t think I’ve ever had a fresh apricot before. I’ve had dried apricots about a thousand times, and there was a hint of that deeply sweet, jammy flavor in the fresh fruit, but so much stronger was a beautiful floralness that was totally new to me. It tasted like the best Near Eastern desserts I’ve ever had (RIP Khyber Pass I’ll love you forever), and I very suddenly had the kind of experience that you read about in food writing but which never happens to normal people: I had a vision of flavor. The vision encompassed these perfect floral apricots, pistachios, rosewater, and cardamom. I wanted to marry these flavors. This would be my quest.
I was thinking maybe some kind of pudding? With all those things mixed into whipped cream? Then I got to thinking about some kinda fruit tart with custard, and that’s kinda where I landed until then my partner presented me with this smitten kitchen recipe for apricot-and-pistachio-frangipane bars. It wasn’t exactly what I’d imagined, but it was a jumping-off point for what became an actually quite tasty dessert: individual apricot-and-cream pistachio frangipane tarts.
At this point, you might be saying, “This seems incredibly fussy and annoying for someone who doesn’t even like making layer cakes.” Correct. I’d never have done something like this on my own. But I have an accomplice, you see, who I can get to do things like line the individual muffin slots with pastry so that I don’t, for example, throw the muffin tin out the fucking window. I’m actually gonna post a picture of these little doodads, because I’m kinda proud of them:
So those are my little tartlets.
I won’t lie to you, this wasn’t the perfect dessert of my dreams. The pistachio flavor wasn’t as clear as I wanted, and we found the flavors of the orange blossom water and the apricots so complementary as to be almost indistinguishable. I think I’m going to go back to my original fruit-tart-with-Persian-flavors idea with our next batch of apricots. That said, these were very tasty, and they were a lot of work, and I’m pretty proud of them, and I wanted to share them with you. Here’s how we made them.
PASTRY (fully ripped off smitten kitchen)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
Whip it up in your food processor just like pie crust, only here’s the weird part – don’t pulse it. Turn your food processor on and walk the fuck away. Come back in 30 seconds. Just let it keep running until it gets chunky. Weird, I know, but it works! Press a thin layer of the pastry into each cup of your muffin tin, which you’ve lined with cupcake liners or parchment. (We used parchment because we did not feel like going to the store for cupcake liners and it worked just fine.) Parbake at 350 for about 10 minutes until golden, then stick in the fridge to cool while you prepare the frangipane.
1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water OR rosewater
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
First I will tell you of our initial critical error: we accidentally bought salted pistachios. My clever solution was to rinse them in a wire mesh sieve very, very well, and it …. mostly worked. Due to this initial error I left salt out of the frangipane entirely, and I don’t know that I’d add it back even with unsalted nuts. Anyway, this is also pretty simple. Combine pistachios, flour, and sugar in the food processor, pulsing until the nuts are powdery-ish; blend in your butter until it disappears; blend in your egg, your orange blossom or rosewater (we went with orange blossom, at my boyfriend’s preference, but I think it’ll be rosewater next time), and your cardamom. Now, be careful with cardamom. This is a flavor I love but which can very quickly become dominant whether you want it to or not. 1/4 teaspoon is a lot! I would start with 1/8 teaspoon and work your way up. In fact I did do that. The orange blossom water, on the other hand, was lighter than I expected. I added a healthy 1/2 teaspoon.
Once you’ve got it mixed up good, drop it into your cooled prepared pastry cups. The recipe makes a bit more than you need as you don’t want the frangipane to dominate. You’re really looking to honor those delicious apricots. Just a nice dollop of frangipane in each pastry cup is fine. Bake at 350, just until the frangipane has firmed up and developed a bit of a crust, about 20 – 30 minutes. Then stick your pastry-and-frangipane cups in the fridge to cool while you prepare the cream and apricots.
1/2 cup cream
Pinch of cardamom
Drizzle rosewater/orange blossom water
Mix up your whipped cream as above, then put a dollop of cream on each cooled pastry-and-frangipane cup.
Finally, top each with half an apricot.
I think these are better the next day out of the fridge but I think a lot of desserts are better the next day out of the fridge.