I once told a crowd that I was preparing a dessert for, that I don’t like sweet things. I didn’t realize it would get such a big laugh – so I guess I should have worked on the delivery of that line a little bit beforehand. But I had to explain that I like things on the tangy and tart side, which is what happens to fresh apricots when baked. While they are great fresh, when cooked, the flesh takes on the puckery characteristics of the skin, which is my favorite part of the fruit (hmm, maybe there’s a market for apricot skins?) – and makes them even more spectacular-tasting in pies and tarts.
While apricots are in season right now here in France, I’m doing my best to use as many of them as possible; skin, flesh, and even the kernels. But I’m not the only one. I had a lovely apricot tart at Chambelland (gluten-free bakery) recently, a treat from the baker, who wanted to know what I thought of it. It was great – and honestly, better than many of the regular apricot tarts around town.
When I was got up to leave, and he asked me my thoughts, I was reaching to think of other things to do to an apricot tart, since we Americans like to do whatever we can to dial things up, adding flavors and textures to a dish, whereas the French seem to like things more singular, and are happy to have a pristine, little apricot tart, just as is.
I’m seated on the fence between both camps, although I do lean (fall?) a little in the direction of my fellow Americans. So, because he asked, I suggested maybe hint of cardamom or another spice. (But if he hadn’t asked, I would have thought it was just fine. Which is why it’s not always a good idea to ask people’s opinion – especially mine.)
Meanwhile, back home, I had a big bowl of rosy apricots waiting to be used for something, each with a magnificent reddish blush, because I’d hand-selected them, one-by-one, from the large mountain of fruits at the market the seller kept heaping more apricots upon. I’m nice, but not nice enough to leave all the good ones for someone else.
And then I remembered this tart in my repertoire. It was inspired by a tart from my friend, and expert baker, Dede Wilson, who I met over a decade ago at a culinary conference. We bonded across a table overloaded with smoked fish, when we both simultaneously remarked – aloud – about the lack of bagels and cream cheese to go with the smoky delicacies from the deep.
To keep the peace with both my French-half (the one that knows when to stop), and my American one (the one that doesn’t), this tart keeps the flavors of the apricots first and foremost, although I couldn’t help adding some cherries to the tart. And the fragrant marzipan topping is a spot-on counterpoint to the tangy apricots; the stone fruit flavors come through just fine, but the rich, nutty flavor of the almond paste topping melts down and bakes into all the crevasses between the fruit, holding both elements together. Like I’m doing.
Apricot and Cherry Tart with Marzipan Topping
One 9-inch (23cm) tart, eight to ten servings
(Inspired by Dede Wilson.)
The term “marzipan” is used here because that’s a term often used for pastries and candies made with almond paste. (The definitions vary; there are some links below, for further reference.) Almond paste is available at well-stocked supermarkets and at pastry supply shops. At supermarkets in America, Odense almond paste, sold in tubes, is a good choice. I’m a fan of Love ‘n Bake almond paste, which is also available online. If buying almond paste elsewhere, find a brand with a high percentage of almonds, at least 50%, if possible. If your almond paste isn’t particularly fragrant, add a few drops of pure almond extract.
Don’t be tempted to dial back on the sugar with the apricots. They become much more tart when baked, and the sugar makes them juice, and encourages them to soften as well. If you wish to use raspberries or blackberries in place of the cherries, swap out 1 cup (115g) of berries for the cherries. If you want to make an apricot-only tart, omit the cherries and add 4 additional apricots.
For the marzipan topping
1/2 cup (70g) flour
1/2 cup (70g) firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup (3 ounces, 85g) almond paste
1/4 cup (40g) sliced almonds (blanched or unblanched)
optional: 1-2 drops pure almond extract
4 tablespoons (2 ounces, 55g) salted or unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
For the fruit
- 12 ripe apricots
- 15 cherries
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
One 9-inch (23cm) prebaked French tart shell
1. Make the topping by mixing the flour, brown sugar, almond paste, sliced almonds, almond extract (if using), and butter with your fingers, or a pastry blender, until the pieces of almond paste and butter are the size of kernels of corn. Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC).
2. Pit and halve the apricots and slice them into 1/2-inch (1.5cm) slices. Stem and pit the cherries, and halve them. Toss the apricots and cherries in a bowl with the cornstarch and granulated sugar, and spread the fruit into the baked tart shell.
3. Strew the marzipan topping over the fruit and bake until the top is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling around the edges, 30 to 40 minutes.
(I’ve not had this tart run over, but if you’re the cautious type, you can bake it on a foil-lined baking sheet, in case there are any spills.)
4. Remove from the oven and let cool a bit before serving.
Serving: The tart can be served just as it is, warm or at room temperature. It can be accompanied by ice cream, such as vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or sabayon.
Storage: The tart will keep for up to three days at room temperature however the crisp topping will soften considerably by the second day.
Related Posts and Links
What is the difference between almond paste and marzipan (American Almond Products)
Marzipan vs. Almond Paste (Nigella.com)