Michelle Darmody: Baking with apricots

APRICOTS have a luscious perfumed smell that can evoke the far away warm climates of their origin.

They bring to mind long, hot, dry days in a dusty orchard. I usually use apricots to make jam which stores that summery taste for the year ahead. A spread of golden apricots on hot buttered toast is wonderful at any time of year.

In the three recipes that follow I used apricots in different ways. The first is in a rich caramel tarte tatin.

This upside down cake is more traditionally made with apples, but apricots work very well. The lavender adds a little kick to the flavour but you can leave it out if you wish.

When using lavender flowers I always make sure they have not been sprayed with pesticides. Using organic, or flowers that you have grown yourself, can help to ensure this.

For some reason I often think that almond and apricot should not work well together, but they do. The rich butteriness of this almond sponge baked on top of the puff pastry make a nice contrast to the soft apricot layer.

Both ingredients hail from the same part of the world, the hot Middle Eastern region.

The third recipe is a nice simple use of apricots as a dessert.

You can flavour the creme fraiche with some extras if you wish, a drop of orange blossom water stirred through works really nicely or a dash of rosewater.

Apricot and lavender tarte tatin

Michelle Darmody: Baking with apricots
70g of golden caster sugar
40g of soft butter, cubed
a sheet of puff pastry, about 350g
1/2 tsp of dried lavender flowers, organic or from your garden
300g of fresh apricots, halved and stoned

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.

Heat an 8in heavy pan on a medium heat. Add the sugar and melt it, do not stir while it is melting or it might seize up. Once it has completely melted add the butter to the pan and gently stir it in. It will be piping hot so be careful. Stir until it becomes a smooth caramel.

Sprinkle the lavender into the caramel and then lay the apricots on top, cut half facing upwards and then set the pan aside. Cut a disk from your pastry sheet that is a bit wider than the pan. Press the pastry on top and pinch it around the edges, making a few knife pricks in the pastry.

Bake for twenty minutes until golden and the apricots are soft. Gently turn the tart upside down (or right side up!) by putting a plate on top and quickly flipping it. Be careful it does not end up on the floor.

Apricot and almond slices

170g of butter
160g caster sugar
110g of ground almonds
55g of plain flour
1 tsp of almond essence
3 eggs
220mls of apricot jam
340g of puff pastry

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Beat the butter, caster sugar, ground almonds, flour and the essence until they are all combined.

Slowly add the eggs one at a time.

Lay half of the pastry on to a swiss roll tin so it covers right to the edges. Spread the jam on top. Pour the almond mixture over and spread it out.

Leave about a centimeter around each side.

Cut the remaining pastry into long tin strips and make a lattice over the top of the cake.

Bake for 25 minutes until golden on top. Once cooled slice into fingers.

Honey grilled apricot halves with vanilla creme fraiche

Michelle Darmody: Baking with apricots
8 apricots, halved and stoned
2 tbs of honey
1 tsp of vanilla essence
4 tbs of creme fraiche
a handful of toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped
a handful of ripe raspberries

Place the apricot halves onto a baking tray, cut side down. Drizzle the honey over the apricots and into the hole where the stone was. Place under a medium grill until they soften and have turned golden.

Stir the vanilla through the creme fraiche and add a little honey to taste if you wish.

Spoon some of the creme fraiche on to the plate, place the halved apricots on the plate and pour over any juices from the pan. Sprinkle with the toasted hazelnuts and raspberries.


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