Thursday, June 16, 2005

Apricot Cheesecake Tart

This original recipe for this refreshing dessert is from the Cake Bible by Rose Beranbaum. (I made some modifications, but I will also include notes on Rose's original recipe.) The tart was particularly liked by Mehmet who demonstrated this by eating three slices in one sitting and Yurdaer who confessed to preferring "harmonious desserts" such as this one to my recent experiments with contrasting tastes. He is right, there are no contrasts here, apricots simply rule! Rose said that the tart becomes even better the following day as the flavors blend and become more mellow, but I guess this will have to be tested the next time I make it as it has already almost disappeared.

1 recipe pie crust pastry (Rose used cream cheese pie crust pastry instead.)
1 1/2 lb firm apricots, poached (recipe below)
1 egg
1 egg white to brush on baked crust (optional)
3/4 c apricot preserves
2 tsp apricot syrup or orange juice, divided
2 oz (3 1/2 tbs) cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp almond extract (Rose used a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg instead)
3/4 c creme fraiche or heavy cream

A day before you plan to make the tart, cut the apricots in half and remove and discard the pits. Sprinkle them with 2 tsp of lemon juice. Stir 4 cups of water with 1 cup of sugar over high heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add 1tbs corn syrup and heat until simmering. Add the apricots to the sugar syrup and simmer over low heat for 4 to 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the apricots to a bowl with ice cold water. Allow the syrup to cool completely; return the drained apricots to the cooled syrup, cover and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours, or refrigerate them for up to 3 days. If all this sounds too complicated, just use 2 15 oz cans of apricots in syrup instead.

Use the pie crust pastry to line a 11-inch removable bottom tart pan and prebake it. You may brush it with an egg white while still warm to moisture-proof the crust. (Of course, I forgot to do it again.) Meanwhile, drain the apricots and place them on a paper towel to dry. Heat the preserves, stir in 1 tsp of apricot syrup or orange juice and strain to a small bowl. Brush the bottom of the tart pan with 2 tbs of the strained preserves; set the remainder aside to be used as a glaze later.

In a food processor, process the cream cheese and almond extract until smooth. Scrape down the sides. Add the cream, 1 egg, the remaining apricot syrup or orange juice. Process with 3 short pulses, just to mix. The mixture will be lumpy, but do not process any longer.

Pour about half of the filling into the prepared crust. Place the apricots on it, Carefully pour the remaining filling around the apricots so that it does not coat the tops. Bake for 30-35 minutes in a preheated 375F oven or until the cheese filling is puffed and slightly browned. Cool. Reheat the preserves, and spoon evenly over the top of the apricots and filling. Chill for at least 1 hour before unmolding.