I got a little crazy in the baking department this weekend. There was a baby shower for a good friend of mine planned (god bless her precious little socks) and I got myself up to my elbows in cake for the occasion. I thought, momentarily, about making the ever-appreciated chocolate cake, a safe bet for people whose tastes you don’t quite know. And I thought about a Victoria Sponge too for it’s crowd pleasing qualities. And then I thought about the friend whose baby we were showering and about how I just know, deep down, that these good folks would want their precious bebe well versed in the language of foods, various, exotic and experimental, and I knew I had to offer a few flavours not always found on a party board. Now, if you haven’t already met her and found out for yourself, there really is only one place to go for inspiration for a splendid, voluptuous, mouth-watering Bake of some kind. Dear Debs at Smitten Kitchen has the trump up her sleeve every time. Having scoured the ends of the earth and the bottom of every food magazine pile and waded her way through a sea of recipes she finds the best, the most sumptuous, simple the most mouth-wateringly delicious cakes out there. This time, after an hour or so having to dab delicately at my mouth to keep my salivations from the keyboard I found a masterpiece of baking: a Pistachio Petit Four cake. My dear friend, Ms A, is of a Persian bend and I thought that the pistachio, apricot and almond trio were a perfect tribute.
Having overwhelmed my senses at Deb’s place, I thought I’d leave some space for some other inspiration and dawdled over to Bea’s at La Tartine Gourmand. Bea has an ability to wave her magic French wand over everything she does and give it that certain je ne sais quoi. I fell in love, instantly, with her Lemon Yogurt cake for a few reasons, not least of which was that it was her dad’s favourite. I’m a bit of a dad-o-phile myself here and it tugged somewhat on my homesick/family-sick heartstrings. Also, it’s kind of like a cheese cake, but much lighter and it comes in a pastry. Pastry? I’m in!
For the third plate I stayed a little closer to home. I did a gorgeous walnut banana bread, which I sliced in half through the body, scooped a little bit out of the bottom half and filled with dulce de leche. So there you go, ma petite belle bebe S: something from your home, something from my home and something half way between the two. May your life be beautiful and delicious.
Okay, I promise that this is the last catch-up-on-summer post I’ll put out here. It’s nearly December, for goodness sake, and I’ve a plethora of Autumn cooking to catch you up on and I really don’t want this to end in the Summer next with me still waffling on about Christmas baking. But how, I ask you with cake in my mouth, could I not tell you all about this? Look at it, don’t you just want a piece? And, to be honest, with the November rain-snow-yuck glooming down all around us at the moment a little bit of sunny coloured apricotiness can’t do too much harm.
Apricots are something I actually seldom buy, perhaps only once in the season. The reason is that they are such a sensitive, delicate little fruit that by the time they get from the tree to the store they always seem to have lost their lovely, translucent glow and their flesh turns to powderiness or mush far quicker than is convenient. Growing up in South Africa meant, among other things, having access to very fresh, delicious fruit and I can’t help but compare the apricots I’ve bought here with the firmer, juicier ones I remember from childhood. Nonetheless, there are times when, luck in hand, I run into a crop of apricots so blushing, so sunny and full of optimism that I simply Must Have Them. This particular lot were simply lovely, a rare treat in a rainy summer. And having bought far more than I knew we’d manage to eat before they tipped over on to the other side of ripe I knew the best way to use them up would be in a tart. I thought a great compliment to the tartness of the apricots would be the delicate fragrance and flavour of almonds I achieved this not only by using almond flour in the pastry, but also by fashioning new stones for the halved fruit out of marzipan. It not only looked quite precious, it tasted, let me tell you, Delicious.
Almond Apricot Tart
For the pastry:
1 cup plain flour
⅓ cup quinoa flour (or use more plain four to the same value)
¼ cup almond flour (ground almonds)
⅓cup demmerara sugar
¹⁄⁄₈ tsp tumeric powder
big pinch salt
⅓ cup canola or vegetable oil
⅓ cup cold water
12 apricots, halved and stoned
2 Tbsp honey
¼sp ground cardamom
– mix all three fours and the sugar, tumeric and salt.
– add the oil and mix until the mixture is crumbly and looks like oats and wet sand
– add the water and combine to form a dough.
– rest at room temperature for one hour
– preheat the oven to 375˚F
– roll out the pastry and line a greased pie dish with it, trimming the edges.
– arrange the apricot halves, skin side down, in the pie base
– pinch of marble size pieces of marzipan, roll between your palms to form a ball and place in the centre of each apricot.
– warm the hone a little over a low heat, add the cardamom and drizzle over the apricots.
– Bake for about 35 mins until the pastry is golden and the liquid from the fruit and honey is bubbling.