Apricots have consumed Santa Fe. Every farmers market I visit for work is awash in them. Vendors push apricots like crack, practically begging customers to “please. just take a bag.” Apricot trees laden with their succulent, orange Christmas ornaments line major roads. Tourists smash them under their white New Balances on Canyon Road and at the Plaza. Birds fly like they just returned from a Carnival cruise with an endless apricot buffet line.
And I am in heaven. Pure, saccharine heaven. I have at least 2 pounds of apricots in the adobe at all times. I acquire them from a multitude of sources: friends, desperate farmers market vendors, orphaned bags on the doorstep, clandestine nightly harvests of apricots along the road. Wherever they come from, these fresh apricots taste like sunshine and sweetarts. One bite and their tart skin yields way to a creamy, surprisingly indulgent interior. To experience Santa Fe’s fresh apricots is to live both the opulence of Versailles and the court’s consequent, sour revolution.
In honor of La Révolution à l’abricot and France’s upcoming Bastille Day on Saturday, I adapted this recipe from Café Verlet’s Parisienne apricot tarts. Leave it to the French to perfect the flawless fresh apricot with lusty flavors of almond and vanilla.
Verlet’s Apricot Tartlettes
adapted from “Bastille Day Desert Party” Bon Appétit 1999
makes 12 tartlettes
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons finely ground unblanched almonds (a Cuisinart is perfect for this job; make sure to grind extra almonds)
1/2 cup crème fraîche or heavy (whipping) cream (I prefer the former)
1 large egg lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons full-flavored honey (I used used Mountain Wildflower from Chama, NM)
1 tablespoon flour
About 1 1/2 pounds (750 g) fresh apricots, pitted and halved (do not peel)
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter the bottom and sides of a muffin tin. Set aside.
Make the pastry:
In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and the sugar, and using a wooden spoon, stir to blend. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to form a soft, cookie-like dough. Transfer the dough to the center of the buttered muffin tin. Using the tips of your fingers, evenly press the pastry along the bottom and up the sides. The pastry will be quite thin.
Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake until the dough is slightly puffy and set, 5-8 minutes. Sprinkle leftover ground almonds over the bottom of the crust. (This will prevent the crust from becoming soggy.)
Meanwhile make the filling:
In a medium-size bowl, combine the crème fraîche, egg, extracts and honey and whisk to blend. Whisk in the flour.
Pour the filling evenly over the pastry. Overlap the halved apricots, cut side up, at an angle in the creme filled tartlettes.
Place the baking sheet in the center of the oven and bake until the filling is firm and the pastry is a deep golden brown, 25-30 minutes. The apricots will shrivel slightly. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Place the tart on a rack to cool. Sprinkle again with confectioners’ sugar just before serving. Voilà!