Friday, June 21, 2013

Apricot and Basil Shortbread Tart

Seasonal Amazingness. I think that's actually what this dessert should be called. I'm usually aghast at the
poor quality of produce at my local grocery store, but on my last shopping trip I happened to notice some perfectly ripe, large, unblemished, in-season apricots taunting me from amongst the smashed apples and moldy broccoli (seriously). Along with some fresh basil from the gardens of those of you lucky enough to have yards or balconies with direct sunlight (grumble, grumble), this tart makes for an elegantly refreshing taste of early summer.

Herbs seem to be having a moment lately. Infusing everything from cookies and ice cream to cocktails and liquors, herbs add a hint of je ne sais quoi particularly when enriching the flavor of sweets and desserts. I have to admit I was a little wary of the basil-infused pastry cream called for in this tart, but I am now a believer. Yes, it does taste like basil, but in the most amazing way.

Also amazing about this dessert is the crust. Though it's technically a shortbread, it's not the bland, sandy, rock hard crust you're imagining. Made with a unique combination of powdered sugar, egg yolk and potato starch, this crust was soft and tender and probably my favorite component of the entire production.

A couple of notes: This recipe calls for a 14x2" tart pan, but you could easily adapt it for a 9" round tart pan as well and baking for 40 minutes. Similarly, the recipe actually makes more than enough pastry cream and nearly too much crust, so feel free to adjust or adapt this recipe to make several mini tarts instead.

Apricot and Basil Shortbread Tart
     From Food&Wine

Pastry Cream
1 cup whole milk 
5 tablespoons granulated sugar  
1/4 cup packed basil leaves with stems 
2 large egg yolks  
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large hard-boiled egg yolk  
1 stick plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter  
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar 
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/4 cup potato starch 
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt 

6 apricots (1 1/4 pounds), halved 
3 tablespoons granulated sugar  
1/3 cup apricot jam, melted 
1. In a saucepan, combine 3/4 cup of the milk with the sugar and basil; bring to a simmer. Remove the milk from the heat and let stand for 15 minutes. Remove the basil and squeeze any milk back into the pan; discard the basil.

2. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 1/4 cup of milk with the yolks and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly whisk the egg yolk mixture into the warm milk; bring to a simmer over moderate heat, whisking constantly until very thick, 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter until melted. Scrape the cream into a bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate until chilled, 2 hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray a 14-by-4 1/2-inch rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom with nonstick cooking spray. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the hard-boiled egg yolk with the butter and sugar at medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the flour, potato starch and salt and beat at low speed until just combined. Using lightly floured hands, press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the side of the tart pan. Refrigerate the crust for 30 minutes, or until chilled.

4. Bake the crust for about 25 minutes, until golden. Transfer the crust to a rack and let stand until cooled, about 1 hour.

5. Increase the oven temperature to 450°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the apricot halves cut side up on the paper and sprinkle all over with the sugar. Roast for about 20 minutes, until the apricots are tender and lightly browned. Let the apricots stand until completely cooled, about 30 minutes.

6. Unmold the crust and transfer it to a serving plate. Using a small offset spatula, spread the cream evenly in the crust. Arrange the apricots on the cream, cut sides down, and brush with the melted jam. Cut the tart crosswise into strips and serve at once.