|Sugar-Free Fresh Apricot Crostata|
Apricot feast or apricot famine! Last year - famine. This year - feast! I went to the farmer's market and bought seconds; ripe, delicious, and cheaper than firsts. First came multiple batches of jam, then a batch of apricot liqueur. I saved all the pits, smashed them open, and put them into some organic Prairie vodka to make almond extract. (The kernel in the pit is a "bitter almond," poisonous to eat, but what almond extract is made from; it's far more almond-y than almonds are!) I was feeling pretty satisfied, the larder was full and I had enough to weather the next famine; no need for more. But.....then my friend Kate scored yet another massive batch of organic apricots at the farmer's market; the first time she scored 25 pounds and hustled to use it all, soliciting recipes from all her friends in the longest Facebook exchange I've ever seen. Then she scored another 36 pounds - yikes! This time she was ready to share some, so we traded; some Artemesia Organic Blood Orange Liqueur for 10 pounds of apricots. The ripest ones needed to be used right away, so I just went straight into jam mode.... there went five pounds. A few more went into the jar of liqueur, with more vodka to cover. And that left me with about 3 more pounds. Hmmmm...... Apricot Crostata!
If you notice any similarity between this and my recipe for sugar-free Linzertorte, you are a clever and observant reader. I changed my recipe for the dough ever so slightly (almond meal only instead of hazelnuts, a little vanilla), and the filling recipe here is essentially a quick jam recipe. In fact, if you don't have any fresh apricots on hand, you can use some sugar-free apricot jam - preferably home-made. Both commercial varieties of sugar-free apricot jam I tried truly had no discernible flavor at all, so if that's all you have available, I would doctor the jam; see below* for instructions.
The recipe would work perfectly with cherries, using exactly the same proportions (I riffed the filling recipe off of a cherry crostata recipe in the Gourmet Cookbook.) If you use cherries, eliminate the almond extract.
Sugar-Free Fresh Apricot Crostata
|Time to add the thickener|
1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 large egg yolks
Finely grated fresh lemon zest from 1 lemon
1 tsp apple sauce
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup erythritol
3 TB xylitol
6 tiny scoops stevia extract powder (the little measuring spoon in the container)
8 oz/2 fairly packed cups of almond meal
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (spoon and sweep measuring*)
1/4 cup + 2 TB soy protein
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 lbs ripe, fresh apricots
3 TB unsalted butter, divided into a few pieces
1/4 cup + 3 TB erythritol
3 TB + 1 1/2 tsp xylitol
6 tiny scoops stevia extract powder
1-2 TB fresh lemon juice (I used Meyer)
2 TB kirsch
1/2 tsp almond extract
3 TB corn or tapioca starch dissolved in 1/4 cup water
Tools: a 10" tart pan with a removable bottom, a mixer
Using your mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Then add the remaining ingredients from group I and beat until well combined.
Measure all of the sweeteners from group II into a small bowl and whisk to combine. Add to the butter mixture and beat until well combined.
Next, measure all of the ingredients from group III into a medium-sized bowl and whisk to combine. Add gradually to the butter mixture until it is well mixed. Form the dough into two equal balls, place each on its own sheet of waxed paper, and squash into large disks. Put them in the fridge to chill for at least 1/2 hour.
While the dough is chilling, make the filling:
Wash, dry, pit and cut the apricots into quarters. (Save the pits to make your own almond extract!)
Add the butter to a 12" saute pan and melt over medium low heat. Add the apricots, lemon juice, kirsch and almond extract and stir to combine. While the apricot mixture cooks over medium heat, measure the sweeteners into a small bowl and whisk to combine. Add the sweeteners to the apricot mixture and stir well. Please note: the sweetener amount is calculated for really sweet, ripe apricots (Blenheims are sooooo delicious!) If your apricots are a little tart and under-ripe, up the sweeteners to taste, and go with the lower amount of lemon juice - perhaps even dropping it; it's there to balance the sweetness. Cook until the apricots have softened somewhat, and released their juices, about 8-10 minutes. Stir up the starch/water slurry to recombine and add it to the apricot mixture. Cook until the whole batch thickens and no longer tastes of corn starch, about 10 minutes more. You will have a delicious, flavorful filling. Let it cool in the pan.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator to soften, and pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Put a silpat on a baking sheet, or cover it in foil, and place on the middle rack of the oven to heat.
When the dough is malleable enough to roll, remove one dough disk and set it aside so that you can use both pieces of waxed paper to roll the dough with. (Of course you can use an additional piece of waxed paper, but I like to use as little disposable stuff as possible.) Placing one disk between two pieces of waxed paper, roll until the dough into a 12" round. Put it in the tart pan, and press the dough up the sides of the pan. You can trim off the excess dough or fold it over to reinforce the sides of the tart. Put it back in the refrigerator while you work on the second disk.
Using your two pieces of waxed paper, roll the second disk into another 12" round. Remove the top layer of waxed paper, and cut the round into 10 strips, each one 3/4" -1" wide. Put the whole thing on a baking sheet and put it in the fridge to firm up a bit - this makes it easier to handle - while you do the rest.
Remove the tart pan from the refrigerator, and fill it with the luscious apricot filling. You may have a tablespoon or two left over; don't over-fill the pan - it will overflow and make a sticky mess. This extra filling is the cook's treat while the tart cooks. Well, of course. you could eat it right now, before you go to the next step; I did.
Take your dough strips out of the refrigerator, and being mindful that the outside pieces are the shortest and you will need to repeat the strips going the other way, lay the strips across the tart, either straight to make squares or on the diagonal to make diamonds. You may need to use a spatula to remove the dough strips from the paper. Pinch the outer edges of the dough onto the dough rim in the pan and remove any excess. Repeat going the other way. You will likely have a few small pieces of dough; again, cook's treat. You can eat it raw, or put it on the cookie sheet to bake; it makes a tasty shortbread-like cookie. Just remember to take it out after about 10-12 minutes, or it will burn. (I've done this twice now; phooey.)
Put the tart on the heated cookie sheet in the middle of the oven, and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, until the crust is golden-brown and the filling is bubbling.
Cool the crostata for at least an hour and a half so that you can safely remove it from the pan and cut it without it breaking.
*Special instructions for doctoring commercially made jam: Take 1 1/3 cups apricot jam. In a medium sized sauce pan, melt the butter, then add the jam and thin it by heating it a bit. Add the almond extract, lemon juice and kirsch in the proportions shown above, and heat and stir to combine. Taste it, adjust the flavors, and follow the directions from there.
To make this recipe gluten-free, simply substitute your favorite gluten-free baking mix for the whole-wheat pasty flour. All set!