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Rustic Apricot Tart

Apricots are one of our favorite spring fruits.  We try to enjoy this lovely stone fruit as much as possible while they are in season and they are at their peak in June.  In addition to eating them on their own, they make a very nice dessert baked as a rustic tart, served with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and drizzled with a little local honey from the market.

The recipe for this tart is so simple and really relies on the quality of the ingredients because there is little to disguise any flaws.  When choosing apricots at the market look for those that are fragrant and have a little red blush on their skin.  Apricots won't continue to ripen after they are picked, so avoid those with a greenish tint.  In addition to apricots for this tart, you could also use French prune plums.  They are small, oblong purple-skinned plums that come to the market in late August and September.

With this recipe, it is important to remember to preheat your oven and have the pastry rolled out, fitted in the tart pan, and chilling in the freezer before the fruit is cut up and combined with the sugar so you can assemble the tart quickly.  If the fruit sits, it gives up a lot of juice, which can keep the pastry from baking properly.

Rustic Apricot Tart

Serves 6 to 8

for the crust

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, preferably organic
large pinch of sea salt
7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt and blend with a fork.  Add the butter.  Using your fingers, incorporate the butter until you have a coarse meal and no pieces of butter are bigger than a large pea.  Gradually add the ice water just until moist clumps form.  If you pick up a handful of the dough and squeeze it, it should hold together.  Be careful not to overwork the dough.  Bring the dough together with your hands to form a ball, and press it into a disk.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface, and sprinkle with a little bit of flour.  Roll it into a 1/4-inch-thick circle, flouring as needed.  Starting at one side, roll and wrap the dough around the rolling pin to pick it up.  Unroll the dough over the 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom.  Gently press the dough into the pan, being careful not to stretch it as this will cause it to shrink when baking.  To remove the excess dough, work your way around the edge pinching off the excess dough with your fingers.  Put the tart shell into the freezer while you prepare the fruit.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

for the filling

About 1 pound small, fragrant, firm-ripe apricots
heaping 1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
2 pinches of sea salt

Cut the apricots in half, remove the pits and then cut each half in half again.  Slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and use a paring knife to scrape out the seeds.  Put the apricots in a large bowl, and toss them gently with the sugar, vanilla and salt.

to assemble

Remove the tart shell from the freezer and quickly arrange the fruit inside, cut side up, in concentric circles.  Scrape any remaining sugar mixture left in the bowl over the fruit.

Transfer the tart tin to a baking sheet and bake it in the bottom third of the preheated oven until the pastry is golden and the fruit is cooked through, 50 to 60 minutes.

Place the tart on a rack to cool.  Serve at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, crème fraîche or whipped cream.