Apricot and almond tart - natures way of saying thank you

Sometimes nature needs a little help.Here in the garden at Casa Rosada we use no plant foods or pesticides on the fruit trees and garden produce that we grow.What is served to our guests is 100% bio and untreated.Last year we lost all our soft fruit to a bug.All the fruit was diseased inside before it even ripened on the trees.With much research and visits to  garden centres for natural products that would stop this recurring, no solution was forthcoming.The only option was for systemic treatments that would infiltrate the trees from the soil up and at the same time anihilate the worker bee population.This was a totally unacceptable solution.

And then when we had almost given up, a visit to a French DIY superstore came up trumps with a totally natural answer in the form of an armadilha ( insecticide free hanging basket) you put in the trees when the first blossom becomes evident, around April.Hey ho this worked I have already picked 2.5 kilos of luscious apricots (see above).
Smoothies, coulis, Trifle and tarts are now all on the agenda.Yes tarts.Just in case you are still wondering the difference between a tart and a pie is simple enough.A pie has pastry on top and not necessarily underneath while a tart has a pastry base and no cover.The other difference is in  the pastry.In general,pies have a robust short crust that supports their heavier structure.A tart on the other hand is encased in a lighter,somtimes more brittle,sweet paste that is a negligée to the pie´s pyjamas.I adore a good fruit tart.We haven´t always been so prejudiced against tarts, be they girls or pastries.Tart used to be a term of endearment for a girl in her Sunday best-probably a truncation of "sweetheart" ( drop the
"h" and say it quickly)-and had no derogatory inference until the end of the 19th century.And in cooking,tarts were once made of of every conceivable ingredient,both sweet and savoury,and signified any uncovered pastry dish.Tarts that are filled before cooking are a simple proposition,as the filling supports the sides.The only worry is that the base takes longer to cook.Bear with it is the best route to take for a fruity tart.Like all the best dishes,the principle behind a good tart is simplicity itself. Just bake a pastry shell,then add the fruit filling of your choice.So without further ado here is one of my favourites from the Book of Old Tarts.

Apricot and almond tart
Sweet lining pastry
This should be enough to make two large 32cm round tarts.
What you do not use will keep very well in the refrigerator
500g flour
250g unsalted butter
200g sugar
pinch of salt
2 eggs
Cream the butter and sugar in a food processor,or in a bowl with a wooden spoon.When they are smooth,incorporate the beaten eggs to form a wet paste.Sieve the flour and add it to the mixture,folding it in gently without working the dough.Roll the dough into a thick log about 12cm in diameter,and refrigerate until you need it.
Almond cream
125g butter
125g sugar
2 eggs
125g ground almonds
20g flour
1 tablespoon amaretto (optional)
Cream the butter and sugar together,add the eggs and,if you have it ,the rum,and stir to a smooth paste.Fold in the almonds,and mix into asmooth dough.Sieve in the flour and stir in gently.
For the fruit filling
1 tart case (as above)
200ml almond cream
250g fresh apricots
3 tbsp clear apricot jam
Make the tart case but do not cook it.fill it with a 1/2 cm layer of almond cream (see above). The cream will expand threefold during cooking,so don´t spread it any thicker.Halve and stone the apricots,and place them skin side down on the cream.Bake the tart in a medium hot oven (400F/200C/gas mark 6) for 25 minutes.Turn the heat down to 350F/180C/gas mark 4 and cook for a further 20 minutes more,Remove the tart from the oven and let it cool,dissolve the jam in a tablespoon of warm water,then paint it over the tart to give it a glaze.


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