Christmas of 2013: Apricot Almond Tarts
As the Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart took a few years to perfect, so has this little charmer. Apricot-almond is a classic flavour-texture combination and an oft needed nippy little tart reprieve from the rich buttery sweet concoctions on the holiday platter. Don’t get me wrong. This little humdinger is sweet, but well balanced by the fresh nutty homemade marzipan huddled beneath the silken glistening luster of the tart vibrant apricot purée.
Why are apricot and almond paired together so often? The pit, seeds or kernels of the apricot has an “almondy” flavour so the pairing is natural. Some varieties of apricots have a kernal so sweet that they may be substituted for almonds. One of my favourite apricot jam recipes has some of the the apricot kernels preserved with the jam, adding a pronounced almond flavour to the preserve. Did you know that Amaretto (the Italian liqueur) and amaretti biscotti are flavored with the extract of apricot kernels as well as almonds? Interestingly and important to note, eaten in excess, apricot kernels contain cyanide, but not enough to affect you if eaten in moderation. (The bitter varieties contain much more cyanide than their sweet counterparts: an apricot kernel weighs about 600 mg, respectively, bitter and sweet varieties contain 1.8 and 0.3 mg of cyanide.) Doom and gloom aside, it makes sense that these two flavours compliment one another.
Surprisingly, this recipe is a compilation of four favourites: my hand-plucked homemade apricot jam, my addictive pliable homemade almond paste, my butter-crunchy sugared almonds (soon to be posted, but often tossed into salads) and the almond pastry crust.
Sometimes a little spark of ingenuity is kindled from all of the “hard thinking” I do. After imagining what flavour and texture I wanted in this little tart, I simply had to combine the recipes to see if my vision could be realized. Honestly? My expectations were surpassed. It wasn’t just “good”, this little tart offers an unexpected burst of pleasure to the palate.
Four layers of flavour and texture: the tart shell, the almond paste, the jam and the sugared almonds. Alone, each is scrumptious. Seriously. Together? “Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-hey-hey-now-good-bye”.
Blind baking the shells is the first step, followed by a generous round of almond paste topped with a dollop of apricot jam purée.
A small cluster of the butter-crunch sugared almonds crown each bite and identify the pairing flavour.
The crust could be thinner as I can never get enough marzipan. I could eat it all just as it is. But, the crust recipe is a delicious cookie crust, so layered with the other ingredients, the flavours and textures build and the thickness of the tart shell crust becomes a personal preference: delicious as it is.
These little miniature Apricot Almond Tarts would also translate into a lovely little individual French Tart made with the ring. I do believe this may be my next company dessert. I have the pastry crust dough in the freezer, the marzipan on hand, the apricot jam in the pantry and left over butter-crunch sugared almonds. OR, I might just roll the marzipan in the apricot purée and then crush the almonds and finish the concoction rolled in the crushed almond mixture. That would be a divine confection if the puree would actually stick to the outside of the almond paste ball. And it might. Ideas?
Apricot Almond Tarts
For Almond Tart Shells:
- One batch of Almond Pie Crust , baked
For Apricot Purée:
- 1 cup homemade Classic Apricot Jam
- 1/2 batch of Homemade Almond Paste or Marzipan
For Toasted Sugared Almond Garnish:
- 2 cups sliced almonds: bark on or off (personal preference)
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
For Almond Tart Shells:
Make and bake 36 shells as per recipe instructions; cool
Roll almond paste or marzipan into 36 small balls; place each into baked tart shell
For Apricot Purée:
Purée jam until smooth in a food processor; add a smidgen of water, if needed
Spoon a scant teaspoon of purée over marzipan inside of each tart shell until completely covered
Purée will keep a month in a tightly sealed container in the fridge
For Sugared Almond Garnish:
Melt butter and sugar in a skillet over medium heat; add almonds
Stirring constantly, toast almonds until light brown (about 5 minutes)
Spread on parchment paper to cool, thinly as possible
Once cool, garnish each Apricot Almond Tart with a small cluster of sugared almonds