I have been craving my grandmother’s tart ever since I saw the first apricots at the store a few weeks ago. Well, actually I crave it all year long and while it is quite good with quality canned apricots, there is of course nothing like fresh, velvety and fragrant ones. We don’t really need a reason to indulge in our cravings. By definition, giving into them is giving into reckless abandon of our senses and indulging in what brings us comfort and joy, as temporary as it is.
When Jennifer announced this month Sugar High Friday, my brain started racing towards many a childhood favorites (and made me wonder if I did not live in a state of perpetual craving), before the only obvious dessert was Mamie Paulette’s apricot tart. It would also give me the opportunity to spend some time with my memories of watching her make the dough and filling countless times with the same love and care.
Then a few days ago, Ivonne wrote about her Nonna Pia and shared fond memories of her life and approach to cooking. I think that Paulette and Pia would have been great friends if given the chance. They both had six children and both knew how to turn the simplest ingredients into scrumptious dishes. I left Ivonne a comment mentionning Paulette’s apricot tart and she emailed me suggesting that I post about it and share my memories. She also threatened to bug me until I did…! Well, here it is my friend!
I have talked about my grandmother many times before, always mentionning her apple or apricot tarts and always making something else. Her tarts were so simple, yet so absolutely delicious that she knew to keep us happy by always having one ready. My grandparents' house has always been the place of gathering throughout the week and especially on sundays. Four out of six children ended up living within close proximity and thus started the sunday tradition of "coffee and tart" around three in the afternoon meaning if you cannot come for lunch, try to make it for dessert. Even as a teenager and young adult, I would always try to make it for tart…especially if a paper or thesis was calling my name!
There was something so soothing and comforting in seating down with her and my grandfather to sip coffee, talk about the family, the neighbors, their garden, and eat pie.
There is even a funny anedocte associated with her apricot tart. At some point her eyesight got worse and worse, and she often made two pies, freezing one in case she would be too tired one weekend to make a fresh one. We were all gathered at the dinner table one sunday evening and when dessert time came, she asked me to go fetch the tart warming up in the oven (you know, so that the ice cream on top melts faster!). I came back trying to hold the tears of laughers streaming down my face…she had mistakingly put a quiche in the oven and not the tart…. ! Everytime I make quiche or tart, I think about that day and immediately look up at the sky and whisper "Love you Grandma".
Serves 6-8 (I made individual one for pictures)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Tbs sugar
1/2 cup chilled (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut in pieces
2 Tbs ice water
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
Place flour and sugar in the bowl of a food processor, and process for a few seconds. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the ice water then the egg yolk, processing just until the dough holds together. Do not process for more than 30 seconds.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Place on a sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten, and form into a disc. Wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour before using.
Preheat oven to 350F and blind bake the tart shells: roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, lay into tart shell, cover with parchement paper or foil, pour dry beans or pie weights on top and bake fro 15 minutes. Let cool before proceeding with the apricots.
8 to 10 apricots, halved, pitts removed
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup creme fraiche (sour cream can be substituted)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup ground almonds
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
Whisk the sugar and the eggs until pale. Slowly add the milk and creme fraiche and whick until combined. Add the extracts and ground almonds and whisk one more time. Slice the apricots, lay them in the bottom of the tart. Slowly pour the batter on top. Sprinkle some slivered almonds on top and bake until the custard is set and the tart is golden brown.