I like foods that seduce me.
I like foods that flirt with my senses, caress my lips as I lean in for that first bite, foods that act all coy and surprise me with unexpected textures and flavors. I love the voluptuousness, the enticing come-hither quality, those foods that are so unabashed at the open display of their charms that I almost blush and have to look away. I love giving in to that feeling of helplessness, knowing that I will eat another bite, and then another and another, because, at that moment, it's all I want in the world. Falling in love with food, and reveling in that experience, is something I will never tire of.
It's the reason that I eat.
It's also the reason I have been so frustrated with apricots.
Oh, don't get me wrong, apricots have been trying their hardest to pull me in. The color, that gorgeous, glowing, soft orange color, with speckles and blooms of fiery pink, stops me in my tracks every time. And then I reach out and pick one up, and my hand relaxes and eases into the fruit's firm roundness, enjoying the intimate sensation of fuzzed, velvety skin nestled against my palm. I'm hooked. And so I buy a bagful, get them home, and then . . .
I try to eat them, and suffer morning-after feelings of letdown and disappointment. The magic is gone, the fruit is a fine fruit, but it just doesn't do it for me. I don't know what, exactly, I'm expecting. More juice, maybe, to make the eating experience match the ravishing plumpness the intact apricot intimates? Or maybe it's the flesh. Maybe it's too firm - it definitely doesn't yield to the slightest pressure with the sweet sigh of contentment that, say, a peach does. Certainly the flavor is part of it. I am never prepared for the zing of tartness that has been present in every apricot I have ever tried. That zing is challenging, a rebuff of sorts, demanding that I get down from the dreamy aerie I have created for what I think an apricot should be, and accept it for what it is.
So, okay, I think, I can do this. I am ready for my apricot affair to begin, I just have to adjust my approach. Since I have pretty much given up on the whole eaten-out-of-hand part, I decide that baking is the way to go. This, I am told, will accentuate the apricot's tartness, so I know I need to add some sweetener. And then I get adventurous, and throw in some herbs. I pour the sweetly glistening fruit onto a circle of gluten-free pastry dough, fold up the edges, and, fingers crossed, into the oven goes my simple apricot galette.
When it emerges, I can feel it immediately. It has a sense about it, the floral perfume of the fruit mingling with the sweet, caramelized scent of the crust, the settled, slightly rumpled look of the apricot segments jumbled about among pools of bubbling, honeyed nectar - this is my apricot experience. (I do, as any polite lover would, turn a blind eye to the crisp, black mess next to the galette, where some juice leaked out of the crust and came out the worse for it. We all have our imperfections.) I gently introduce some honeyed mascarpone and delight in the sweet anticipation of what is to come.
And then we rendezvous, this galette and I, and it is so good. The fruit is tart, to be sure, but tempered by its own fruitiness, plus the herbaceous honey and flaky crust, and once paired with the mascarpone I realize that it shouldn't be any less tart. Also, I am caught off guard by how intense it is, albeit not in a bad way. The fruit tastes, as close as I can tell, like orange. Not in the citrus sense, but like the color. (Which, sometimes, I think we associate with citrus. We are wrong.) Orange tastes like the sun on your shoulders, with a richness that fills your mouth and makes you feel like you are glowing and an energy that makes you want to dance. This is how I feel when I eat the galette, and it makes me swoon.
Upon recovering, I am excited to realize that this affair is not temporary. This roasted fruit is enduring, since minimal tweaking will result in a compote that will pair perfectly with ice creams, panna cotta, yogurt, even pound cake and waffles. Apricots, it seems, have finally convinced my heart and belly to open up to their unique allure. And as so many of us already know, those hard-won romances are some of life's sweetest.
single batch of gluten-free pie crust dough
2 pounds apricots, quartered and pitted
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup thyme-infused honey (recipe follows)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (optional)
1 large egg white, lightly beaten with 1 Tbsp water, for egg wash
granulated sugar, for sprinkling
honeyed mascarpone, for garnish (recipe follows) (optional)
Preheat oven to 375°F.
In a medium bowl, combine the quartered apricots, honey, and cornstarch, stir to evenly coat the fruit, and set aside.
Between two pieces of parchment (you may want to dust the bottom one with gf flour), roll out the pastry dough to a diameter of approximately 13 inches. Remove the top piece of parchment, and use the bottom piece to transfer the dough circle to a baking sheet (keep it on the parchment).
Pour the apricots with their accumulated juices onto the center of the dough, and gently spread them out, leaving a 1 1/2- to 2-inch border. Fold the edges of the dough up to encase the filling, pinching together any cracks that may form. If desired, dot the apricot filling with butter pieces. Lightly brush the crust with the egg white wash, and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
Bake galette for 45-55 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown. Cool on the pan. Galette can be served warm or at room temperature. Garnish with honeyed mascarpone, if desired.
1/3 cup mild honey
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Place honey and thyme in a small saucepan over low heat, and heat just until honey becomes very liquid. Take off heat, and allow the thyme to steep, stirring and tasting occasionally. When the flavor of thyme is as strong as you like (I like it to be obvious, but not overpowering; takes about 20 minutes), remove the sprigs. (Some leaves will have fallen off the sprigs from the motion of stirring; leave these in the honey.) Set aside until needed.
1 cup mascarpone (alternately, you can use creme fraiche)
mild honey, to taste
In a small bowl, stir together the mascarpone and enough honey to lend a slightly sweet flavor to the cheese. The tang of the mascarpone should still come through - you don't want it as sweet as whipped cream. Refrigerate until needed.
Posted by Tara Barker at 10:15 AM