Apricots – some ideas for what is possibly my favourite fruit to bake with

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I have never been a slave to the seasons when it comes to this blog. Sure, I don’t tend to post Christmas cookie recipes in July, but my blog isn’t suddenly awash with strawberry recipes come May either. As much as I like fresh fruit in desserts, at least so far, I don’t tend to work on many recipes involving fresh fruit. And one reason for that is certainly that I find most fresh fruit is best consumed as is – a big bowl of grapes balanced on your lap while reading a book, the juiciest peach eaten bent over the kitchen sink to catch any juices – you get the idea.

My one exception has always been apricots. Given the number of apricot recipes in the archives you could be forgiven for thinking they might be my favourite fruit – yet this could not be further from the truth (that spot is a tie between watermelon and mango). Raw I find them fairly unappealing, even the ripe ones seem to deliver little more than a soft and almost mushy texture with a somewhat underwhelming and almost bland flavour, and to top it of, their downy skin gives me goosebumps. What I do love about apricots is how much they change in flavour and texture once you apply a little heat to them. In fact, they are probably my stone fruit, or even favourite fruit, to bake with. 

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Peaches and nectarines can be an absolute pain to cut and remove the stone, especially when super ripe. And plums, as much as I adore them, can be so juicy you invariably risk soggy bottoms. There are none of these hazards when it comes to apricots. At the same time, apricots, maybe even more so than other stone fruits, are incredibly versatile and work well with lots of different flavours. 

When it comes to spices, I adore pairing them with cardamom and/or mahleb. But apricots also work well with tonka bean (especially if you got yourself a not super ripe and still slightly tart batch of apricots) too. And another personal favourite is anise seed or fennel seeds. And it goes without saying, but if you are patient enough to dry apricot kernels, the small pit inside will work wonders as a flavouring for apricot jams or for things like pannacotta or whipped cream to accompany anything made with apricots. 

Apricots are also perfect for exploring different types of nuts and flours – ground almonds are a wonderful addition to small teacakes with apricots (or even as part of a crumble topping for apricot cakes). Pistachios are another common pairing. It’s not just the colour contrast. Good pistachios (from Antep in Turkey or Bronte in Sicily are my favourite) – aside from their luminous green colour which contrasts nicely with the deep orange and almost reddish hue of apricots – have an almost savoury quality to them which balances apricots floral quality. Toasted polenta or masa harina are both wonderful too. 

Below I have linked to some of my favourite apricot recipes I have shared on the blog over the past few years. 

Honey Saffron Custard with Rose Poached Apricots and Toasted Pine Nut Meringues

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Honeyed Panna Cotta with Anise Seed and Roasted Apricots

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Apricot, Almond and Saffron Cake

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Apricot, Cornmeal and Buttermilk Clafoutis

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A few additional ideas I have yet to get round to trying out:

  • Individual mahleb flavoured brioche pastries with a labneh ‘cheesecake’ topping, quartered apricot slivers and brown butter, pistachio and cardamom crumble
  • Apricot and tonka bean crumble with toasted almonds and whipped creme fraiche on the side

And if fresh apricot season is over in your corner of the globe, fret not, there are some wonderful recipes you can make with dried apricots too. Such as this Stollen with Saffron, Cardamom and Mahleb, or these White Chocolate Chip Cookies with Saffron, Dried Apricots and Pistachios. Also, this quick preserve from Bon Appetit using dried apricots and Miso is weirdly delicious and one I make time and time again.

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