Apricot and custard tart wins glowing reviews

Entertaining

Warm dessert with flaky crust makes a perfect ending for potluck supper

Entertaining

March 23, 2003|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Special to the Sun

When neighbors called with an invitation to a potluck supper, I asked what I might bring. The hostess replied that no one had volunteered to make dessert. Delighted to have been assigned my favorite course, I hung up the phone and began thinking of a sweet confection to take to the party.

An apricot tart with a flaky golden crust and a custard filling flashed into my mind. My inspiration came from an Alsatian apple tart I had recently made. Its filling -- a rich mixture of eggs, sugar, cream, milk and sliced apples -- was delicious, but I thought the tart would be even better made with colorful, dried apricots. My hunch paid off. After several tries, the new version was far more interesting than the original.

I cooked dried apricots in simmering water until softened, then drained and arranged them in circular rows in a partially cooked pastry shell. A sweet custard, this one perfumed with hints of brandy and vanilla, was poured over the fruit before the tart was baked. When done, the spirals of orange-hued apricots formed a mosaic against the soft yellow custard.

The day of the dinner, I made the tart early in the afternoon and left it on the kitchen counter to cool to room temperature. Once packed in a pie carrier, it was easy to transport to our hosts' home, where it was quickly reheated in their oven. At serving time, the warm tart was dusted with confectioners' sugar, then sliced and garnished with scoops of vanilla ice cream. It met with glowing reviews and requests for seconds.

Distributed by Tribune Media Services International.

Apricot Custard Tart

Serves 6 to 8

TART SHELL:

1 1/2 cups flour

2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small chunks

2 1/2 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening, well chilled and cut into small chunks

3 1/2 to 4 1/2 tablespoons ice water

FILLING:

8 ounces dried apricots

1/3 cup whole milk

1/3 cup whipping cream

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon brandy

1/8 teaspoon vanilla

confectioners' sugar

1 quart vanilla ice cream, optional

For tart shell, place flour, confectioners' sugar and a pinch of salt in a food processor (see Note), and add butter and shortening. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. With machine running, slowly add water just until moist clumps form. Remove dough and gather into a ball; flatten into a disk. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.

(Dough can be made a day ahead; soften slightly at room temperature before using.)

Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch round. Transfer to a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim dough overhang to 1 inch above edge of pan. Then fold overhang in and push it against edges to reinforce the sides of the pastry shell. Pierce bottom of dough all over with the tines of a fork. Cover and freeze 30 minutes.

Arrange a rack at center position. Bake shell in 400-degree oven until crust is golden brown, piercing the bottom with a fork if crust bubbles, about 20 minutes. Transfer crust to a rack and reduce temperature to 375 degrees.

While crust is baking, prepare filling.

Halve apricots horizontally if they are whole. Place them in a medium saucepan with water to cover by 1/2 inch. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until apricots are softened, about 20 minutes. Drain apricots, pat dry, then arrange them in tart shell in overlapping circles.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together milk, cream, eggs, sugar, brandy and vanilla; pour over apricots. Place tart pan on a baking sheet with sides and bake until custard is set, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove and cool 15 minutes.

(Tart can be made 4 to 5 hours ahead; leave at room temperature, uncovered. Reheat in 350-degree oven until warm, about 15 minutes.)

Sprinkle tart with confectioners' sugar and serve warm or at room temperature. Garnish each slice with a scoop of ice cream, if desired.

Note: To make dough by hand, cut butter and shortening into dry ingredients with a pastry blender or 2 table knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually add water, mixing until dough holds together. Gather into a ball.

To ensure even blending of the flour and fat, pull off 1/4 of the dough and place it on a floured work surface. With the heel of your hand, smear the dough across the work surface; repeat with remaining dough. Gather dough into a ball and flatten into a disk.

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