Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tartes Aux Abricots


It's been what, a full year since my last post? On a touchy subject that is termed endearingly "Dan" which I didn't even write much about because the words just kind of dried up, like water. Like feelings. 

This is me. A year later. Trying to find back that spark that blazed me a road towards pastry superstardom. I didn't even realise that I have lost that spark, amid the social ladder-climbing, the politics, the ugly greed of business-making. Worse still, I got comfortable. 

You know how in the most unlikely of circumstances, something jots your mind, and a memory pops up? It was 5 years ago, in one of my first jobs in this industry, my then most-esteemed chef told me this: "It is okay to lose your passion. It is okay to take a break. This industry is not meant for everybody."

It took me a long time to accept it. That I am not one of those superhumans/ genius/ prodigy. I am Heidi, a human girl with very human abilities. Humans fall down and get back up, they start lessons since they were babies. 

I get it now. I burnt out. But I am not going to run away anymore and pretend that everything is fine. So I am going to go back to where I started. Where baking was an enjoyment. Where I would document the process, evaluate the result, then cut the cake up and share it with friends and neighbours. 

This is where I'll start. 
With an Apricot Tart.  

 My forte has always been tarts and pound cakes (or buttercakes), although right now as a professional, I deal so much more with the finer aspects of the craft such as genoise sponge, pate a choux, and le mousses etc. Even before culinary school, while the simplest of sponge cake from the packet cake mix would explode in my oven, making a tart comes easily to me. It is something of that a la rustique that draws me to it. I rationalize it as watching one too many Jamie Oliver shows when I was younger. (I still do.)

 This Apricot Tart, or tartes aux abricots, is a lazy-man's version, or what I like to call, an evolved version. It takes only fifteen minuted to prepare. I took away the pate a sucre (pardon my lack of accents as I have not figured out a way to add the accents), expanded on the frangipane (a.k.a almond cream) portion by lightening it with unbleached plain flour. And tadah! you get a very buttery buttercake filled with apricot halves. So basically the only thing that is tart-like about this cake is that is that it is baked in a tart mould.

The ingenuity. 

I used frozen apricots for this recipe, because I had some in my freezer, and because my mum had been pestering me to get rid of it. Fresh apricots will also do. So will plums, dates, figs, blueberries.. the list goes on. Experimenting is always fun!
Tartes aux abricots (makes 1 x 18cm fluted mould and 1 x 27cm round baking mould with removable bottom)

Unsalted butter 450g (softened)
Brown sugar 300g (I used brown because I like the flavour. White sugar will also do.)
Unbleached plain flour 200g
Ground hazelnut 250g (can be substituted with ground almond.)
Eggs 350g (or 7 numbers)
Yogurt 100g
Salt pinch
Frozen apricots halves around 500g (it is really up to your own preference.)

1. Preheat your oven to 180℃, on bake function. (depending on your oven, if it has fan function, you make want to drop your temperature by 20.)

2. Oil your moulds. Especially the fluted mould. You'd want to make sure that all the grooves are well-oiled if you want a clean finish to your tart. When baking at home, I usually just use the used wrapper for the butter to wipe the insides of the mould. No need for fancy brushes, plus you'll be up-cycling your used butter wrapper.

3. Weigh out everything into a large mixing bowl. With an electric mixer (I used a hand-held mixer, with the beater attachment), on medium speed, beat everything together until the mixture is smooth and free of lumps. Your batter should not be watery.

4. Fill the moulds to 3/4 with the cake batter.

5. Arrange apricot halves faced down, or in whatever way you prefer.

6. Stick it in the oven for 40 mins for the smaller fluted mould, and 1 hour 20 mins for the larger round mould.

7. Let the tart cool before unmoulding.


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