I have been wanting to post here more regularly, but I find myself constantly waiting for just one more free moment to mull over my thoughts, to find the right words, to edit until I’m satisfied. Unfortunately, I simply don’t have that luxury anymore, so I’m working on just getting my thoughts down and getting my posts out in the world while they are still fresh and hopefully relevant. Too often I realize the moment I should seize is the one that just passed, but I’m working on this. I remember when Cadel was a few months old and Travis had to be away for a few days on a business trip. After putting Cadel to sleep one night, I went to the kitchen to relax and fix myself a quiet dinner. I thought it would be nice to have a glass of wine while I cooked, so before I got started, I went down to the cool closet where we stored our wine to find a bottle. It had been a while since I’d done any wine shopping or much wine drinking for that matter, so all that I found there were a couple of what I would classify as “really nice” bottles–one a fancy gift and one I’d been saving for a special occasion. I frowned and hesitated for a minute, wondering if I should just bag the whole wine idea. I mean, these were my special bottles. I cursed myself for not picking up some everyday drinking stuff at the grocery store. Why do I always forget the thing I most wanted? And then I heard a voice in my head calling out, stop hesitating; stop waiting. Right, I thought. I grabbed the special occasion bottle and carried it back upstairs with me. I uncorked it and poured myself a generous glass of the rich, purple-toned red. Then I toasted to a a moment of peace alone with myself and drank up. It was one of the best glasses of wine I’d ever had. Friends, when you have children, that special occasion is whenever you say it is. That special occasion is now.
So I’m still working on not hesitating, on seizing the moments as they come. It has been a few weeks now since I baked this apricot tart (fortunately apricots are still in season, so you still have time to make it too), but the very day I made it was strangely enough the same day I had printed out the recipe 9 years ago: July 8, 2005. We were living in South Bend, Indiana at the time, and I spent quite a bit of break time at my various boring jobs reading recipes, many of which I made but many more of which went into a binder to either be found again some day or forgotten forever. This recipe was one I had bookmarked for a long time. And it turned out to be every bit as good as it had sounded to me those many years ago–warm, tart apricots baked to perfection and imbued with an intensity of flavor like the very best fruit leather you’ve ever had, cradled in a creamy custard and cloaked with a sweet cookie crust scented with almond and vanilla.
It seemed to me like there had to be some cosmic significance to the strange coincidence of dates around the tart recipe–when I printed and then when I finally made it exactly nine years later. I suppose you could reason that apricot season is short and so it seems not that unlikely that I could print out an apricot recipe during one season and then find it again during the same season on the same day years later. But I am skeptical of pure coincidence.
So I mulled it over for quite some time. What was the meaning of this apricot tart timing? Could it be that it is time to bring to life some long -buried plans or desires? Or that it is time to celebrate and then put to rest a forgotten dream? Or maybe it was simply a reminder of the mysterious cycles working within our lives. Foreshadowing and hindsight, beginnings and endings, moving us constantly.
An unexpected, peaceful fog is blanketing the city this morning, and it has given me pause, beckoned me to dwell on the apricot tart mystery once more. I am beginning a new chapter. Quitting my job, as I mentioned so casually before, turned out to be much more emotional than I had expected. So many years and so much of myself given to my work at that place, it is difficult to cope with an ending more bitter than sweet, and just as difficult to forge headlong down an uncharted path. I have felt regret and sadness, but I have also felt great relief. A weight lifted from my shoulders, and newfound freedom that inspires me.
A new baby on the horizon. A new story beginning. Life springing forth on berry bushes and fruit trees everywhere. I see hope glimmering in the sunshine that sneaks through our blinds in the morning and beckons me out of bed. Time to leave the misgivings and what-ifs behind, to step out into the sunshine of a new chapter and a new day.
Verlet’s Apricot Tart (Tarte Abricot Verlet)
This recipes comes from Patricia Wells’ book, The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris, but came to me via Epicurious. I should seek out the book. This recipe is a keeper, and I’m sure the book is full of many more.
For the pastry
8 tbsp (4 oz) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1/4 tsp pure almond extract
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tbsp (180g) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tbsp finely ground unblanched almonds (I used blanched almonds)
1/2 cup (25cl) creme fraiche or heavy cream
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp full-flavored honey, such as lavender
1 tbsp superfine flour, such as Wondra (I used pastry flour and it worked just fine)
About 1 1/2 pounds (750g) fresh apricot, pitted and halved (do not peel)
Confectioner’s sugar, for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350F
In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and the sugar, and use a wooden spoon to stir together. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to form a soft, cookie-like dough. Transfer the dough to the center of a 9-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Using your fingers, evenly press the pastry along the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake until the dough is slightly puffed and set, 12-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the filling. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the creme fraiche, egg, extracts, and honey. Whisk to blend, then whisk in the flour.
When the pastry comes out of the oven, sprinkle the almonds over the bottom. Then pour the filling evenly over. Starting just inside the edge of the pan, neatly arrange the apricot halves, overlapping as necessary, cut side up in two or three concentric circles, working toward the center. Fill in the center with any remaining apricots.
Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake in the center of the oven until the filling is just firm and the pastry is a deep golden brown, 55-60 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar, if desired. Cool on a rack.
This makes a delicious breakfast pastry because it’s not too sweet. Bear in mind that the crust does soften after a couple of days, so enjoy within two days of baking for best results.