I think one of the best things to come out of France (apart from wine and cheese) has got to be their patisserie. Whether you are sauntering down the rue Bonaparte in Paris, or meandering through a remote village in the Dordogne, you can always find a good patisserie, offering a wide selection of freshly baked breads and beautiful patisserie. The French take their patisserie very seriously indeed.
As a child whenever I visited France my idea of heaven was gazing through the windows of patisserie shops. My nose pressed up against the windows salivating with expectancy of tasting one of their delicious delicasies. By the age of seven I was a complete connoisseur of the coffee éclair. Later when I studied cookery I was fortunate enough to meet Michel Roux (senior) who was an inspiration to me with his classic approach to French desserts, which are still one of my favourite things to cook.
Although a lot of patisserie can be quite tricky to do, this ‘cheats’ version of the classic French tart is really quick and simple to make. I have used shop bought ready rolled pate brisée/short crust pastry – which is available in most good supermarkets. The tart is also nut free (good for all those with nut allergies). As apricots are now just coming into season they are perfect for this tart. Plums and apples in the Autumn would be delicious too.
French apricot tart
Difficulty : easy Serving: 8-10
1 x 230g ready rolled pate brisée/short crust pastry 30cm diameter*
700g ripe apricots
Preheat the oven to 180oC. Place the pastry on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Prick lightly all over with a fork and bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Take a third of the apricots, cut them in half and remove the stones. Lightly chop and place in a non-stick pan with a tablespoon of water and 30g of the castor sugar. Simmer over a medium heat till the apricots are soft (about 6-8 minutes). Taste for sweetness adding a little more sugar if necessary. Stir in the butter and blitz in a processor till smooth. The purée should have thick consistency of tomato sauce (if it is too runny, return it to the pan and cook till it has reduced slightly). Set aside to cool. Remove the stones from the remaining apricots and cut into thin slices.
To make the tart, spread the apricot purée over the entire base of the tart. Working from the outside, place the apricot slices over the top of the tart in concentric rings. Sprinkle over the remaining sugar, and bake at the top of the oven at 220C for 20 minutes until the edges of the apricots just begin to colour. (Take care that the pastry does not burn, if it is looking too dark, place it on a lower shelf). Remove from the oven, leave to cool and serve with a little vanilla ice cream.
For a more professional finish you may glaze the tart with a little melted apricot jam which gives the tart a lovely glossy finish.
*For a light tart use puff pastry instead.