Here follows a recipe for a summer fruit tart in the French style from my absolutely favorite #1 of all time cookbook: Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1 by Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle and Julia Child. This was the cookbook that I cut my teeth on and used to teach myself how to cook ‘real’ food. Classic French cooking is where I began. When I cook, I instinctively reach for butter, cream, fresh herbs and I can sauté, deglaze and flambée with one hand tied behind my back.
The first edition was published in 1961 and the authors aimed to produce “a cookbook for the servantless American cook who can be unconcerned on occasion with budgets, waistlines, time schedules, children’s meals, or anything else which might interfere with the enjoyment of producing something wonderful to eat. . . . No out-of-the-ordinary ingredients are called for. In fact the book could well be titled French Cooking from the American Supermarket. . . . Anyone can cook in the French manner anywhere, with the right instruction. Our hope is that this book will be helpful in giving that instruction”.
Some classic French baking is also included, but baking got a much more thorough treatment in Volume 2, which was published in 1970. Taken together, the two volumes are considered one of the most influential works in American cookbook history, and Child in particular has long been accorded near-universal respect in the cooking world, in part due to these books’ influence.
Tarte Aux Abricots
- An 8-inch partially cooked pastry shell
- 8 to 10 fresh apricots
- Boiling water
- 1/2 cup/100 grams granulated (caster) sugar
- 2 Tb/30 grams butter
- 1/4 cup/27 grams slivered almonds, toasted
- 1/2 cup/160 grams apricot jam + 2 Tb/30 grams granulated (caster) sugar
Paté Brisée Sucrée (Sweet Short Paste)
For an 8- to 9-inch shell
- 1 1/2 cup sifted all purpose (plain) flour
- 1 1/2 Tb/22 grams granulated (caster) sugar
- 6 Tb/90 grams unsalted butter, chilled
- 2 1/2 Tb/37 grams vegetable shortening, chilled
- 6 Tb cold water
Sift the flour into a one cup measure and level it off with a knife. Do the same again with a 1/2 cup measure.
Place the flour, sugar, butter and vegetable shortening into a bowl. Rub the fat and dry ingredients together rapidly with the tips of your fingers until the fat is broken into bits the size of small oatmeal flakes. Sprinkle in the cold water, a tablespoon at a time, stirring with a fork until the dough holds together. Knead the dough into a ball.
Place on a pastry board and with the heel of your hand, not the palm, rapidly press the pastry by two-spoonful bits down on the board and away from you in a firn, quick smear of about 6 inches. This constitutes the final blending of fat and flour, or fraisage.
Form again into a ball, wrap and refrigerate for several hours until firm.
Roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment paper and place into the tart pan, being careful not to stretch the dough. Trim the edges. Line the filled pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper and weight it with a handful of dried beans or pastry weights. This weight will hold the pastry against the mold while baking.
Partially bake the shell: Bake in the middle of a pre-heated 400° F/205° C oven for 8 to 9 minutes until the pastry is set. Remove the foil and weights. Prick the bottom of pastry with a fork to keep it from rising. Return to the oven for 2 to 3 minutes more. When the shell is just starting to color and just beginning to shrink from the sides of the mold, remove it from the oven.
Construct the tart
Heat the oven to 375° F/190° C.
Drop the fruit into boiling water for 10 to 15 seconds. Peel, halve and remove the pits. Slice the fruit.
Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the sugar in the bottom of the pastry shell. Arrange the sliced apricots in a closely overlapping layer of concentric circles. Sprinkle on the remaining sugar and dot with the butter.
Ready to bake
Bake in the middle of preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the fruit has colored slightly and the juices have become syrupy. Slip the tart onto a rack.
Force the jam through a sieve into a small saucepan. Stir in the sugar and cook over moderately high heat for 2 to 3 minutes until thick enough to coat a spoon with a light film and the last drops are sticky as they fall from the spoon.
Decorate the tart with the slivered almonds and spread on the apricot glaze.