Apricots, whether dried, canned, jam from a jar or fresh, seem to make any dish more elegant. I have baked them into a brownie for a friends birthday celebration, topped a pie crust with them as a sweet ending to take to a friends adorable new home when invited for lunch, and spread preserves in a thin layer on a biscuity base before sitting on the back porch with a friend enjoying a cup of tea and a catch up.
ALMOND, APRICOT AND CREAM CHEESE CROSTATA
4 ounces almond paste
3 tablespoons sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
can of apricot halves
1/4 cup apricot jam, heated
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Heat oven to 400F. Blend almond paste and 3 tablespoons sugar in processor until finely chopped. Add cream cheese, egg yolk, and vanilla, and blend until filling is smooth. Unroll crust on a heavy rimmed baking sheet. Spread filling over crust, leaving 1 1/2 inch plain border. Arrange apricot halves, rounded side down atop filling. Fold dough border up over edge of filling. Brush exposed apricots with warm jam.
Bake crostata until crust is golden brown and apricots are tender and slightly browned, about 35 to 40 minutes. Sprinkle with toasted almonds. Cool 30 minutes.
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, August 2006
APRICOT CREAM CHEESE BROWNIES
3/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
3 tablespoons brandy
5 ounces cream cheese
5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 eggs, divided
4 ounces chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Place the dried apricots and brandy in a bowl. Allow to stand for at least an hour.
Beat the cream cheese and 2 tablespoons butter until smooth, gradually add 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating until creamy. Add 1 egg and beat to combine. Stir in the apricots and brandy.
Heat oven to 350F. Grease an 8-inch square cake pan.
Heat the remaining butter over low heat. When half melted, add the chocolate and stir to combine. When the chocolate is melted, remove from heat and set aside.
Beat 2 eggs until light and foamy, gradually add the remaining sugar and beat until pale and thickened. Fold in the chocolate and butter mixture, the vanilla and sifted dry ingredients. Pour two-thirds of the chocolate mixture into the prepared pan. Pour the apricot cream cheese on top. Spoon on the remaining chocolate mixture. Using a skewer, swirl the apricot cream cheese through the chocolate mixture.
Bake until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out barely moist, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in the pan.
Recipe adapted from cooking.com
4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
2 eggs, well beaten
1/3 cup Marsala
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/3 cups apricot jam
Heat oven to 350F.
Combine flour, sugar, cream of tartar and baking soda. Stir in lemon peel. Make a well in center of dry ingredients. Combine eggs, Marsala and butter, add to dry ingredients and mix well. Reserve 1 cup dough, set aside. Pat remaining dough into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Spread jam evenly over dough. Roll reserved dough into 4 13-inch strips, lay over jam. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until golden.