I trained as a savoury chef, but a mandatory part of any culinary education was in pastry.
In culinary school, I loved my pastry classes so much I actually considered transferring to become a pastry chef.
The technique, level of control over the finished product and beauty of what pastry chefs produce each day are phenomenally inspiring for me.
In restaurants, I would often find myself in the pastry section. It was quieter and more organised than the "hot kitchen"; I preferred it. No one ever messes with the pastry chef in a restaurant kitchen; or "borrows" their equipment if they value their life. So I learned a lot over the years by watching and practising pastry technique.
One thing I learned which completely blew my mind is their use of apricot jelly. When you're in a French patisserie and admiring row upon row of perfectly presented fruit pastries – each with their own shiny glaze – did you know that glaze is usually just melted apricot jelly?
Before learning this, I always wondered why my fruit pastries didn't look as beautiful. It really makes a difference – it keeps the fruit looking beautiful and tasting fresh. It imparts a mildly sweet flavour; not overpowering anything else. It really is a great trick of the trade.
This almond apricot tart is a great, Mediterranean-inspired summer dessert. Fresh apricots are in season and they are best friends with almonds. Throw it onto a prepared (all-butter) puff pastry sheet and you have dessert in under an hour. A generous glaze of melted apricot jam or jelly will add a layer of sweetness and make your tart look as amazing as it tastes.
165g ground almonds
65g icing sugar
2 large eggs
Zest of one lemon
1 prepared sheet of chilled puff pastry
6-8 ripe apricots, stones removes and cut into quarters
1 egg, lightly beaten (for egg wash)
60g apricot jam or jelly, melted (to glaze)
1. Preheat your oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper (or simply use the paper the puff pastry comes with). Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the ground almonds and icing sugar. Add the eggs and mix until well-combined. Add the lemon zest and mix to combine.
3. Roll up the edges of the puff pastry to create a bit of a crust and a barrier, so the almond mixture won't ooze out. Add the almond mixture to the puff pastry base and spread evenly all over the surface.
4. Prepare the apricots and place each quarter – skin side up – into the almond mixture. Arrange the apricots quarters as you like, covering the entire surface of the pastry.
5. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, then increase the heat to 200°C; baking for an additional 10-15 minutes until the top is golden brown and the base is completely cooked.
6. Cool slightly on a wire rack.
7. In a small saucepan, heat the apricot jam or jelly until melted. If there are large chunks of apricot in the jam, push it through a sieve to get a smooth glaze.
8. Brush the hot apricot jam all over the top of the warm tart – including the crust. Let cool, portion into eight slices and enjoy with some sweetened crème fraiche, custard or cream.