When Good Food producer Harriet Ells walked into the studio with a bag of Blenheim apricots I was excited. When she threw down the gauntlet with the words “You better turn these into a really good pie”, I gulped. Apricots are more a tarty kind of fruit. The color of the inner tender orange flesh lends itself to be on display in an arrangement of concentric circles, lightly brushed with glaze. But no, I had to make a pie. So I started thinking about the affinity apricots have for almonds. I will often make a filling of Italian amaretti cookies to fill a peach or apricot cavity then bake them. I knew we had a small container of very high-end almond paste made with a mixture of sweet and bitter almonds. The oil of the bitter almond is what gives that sensational scent that we associate with the nut. Almond paste is coarser and less sweet than marzipan, perfect I thought for mixing into a streusel topping.
When picking apricots from the farmers markets choose an assortment of yielding ripe fruit and firmer fruit that may not be super sweet, but will have more complex flavors. That way you have the best of both worlds for the filling.
So I cut my favorite crust recipe in half to make enough for a single crust pie. See below.
1 1/2 lbs ripe apricots or enough halved, ptted fruit to yield 2 -3 cups fruit
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 to 6 Tablespoons flour
Mix the apricots in a bowl with the sugar and salt. Add the flour by sprinkling it over the fruit one tablespoon at a time, mixing it after each addition. You have the perfect amount of flour when the flour just absorbs the fruit juices without seizing up.
Almond Paste Streusel Topping
1 cup flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup good quality almond paste
1 stick butter, cut into 8 pieces
Place flour, sugars and salt in small bowl. Mix with a whisk or spoon. Add the almond paste and butter to the bowl. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter and almond paste into the flour and sugars. Or you can do what I do and use your fingertips to work the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like very lumpy pie dough.
To assemble the pie:
Roll out the dough and arrange it in a deep dish pie plate. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs over the bottom of the rolled crust to absorb excess fruit juices. Add the sweetened and floured apricots to the pie pan. Top with a generous layer of Almond Paste Streusel Topping.
Place pie in lower third of preheated 375° oven. Bake for 20 minutes, or until streusel begins to color. Then cover the pie with aluminum foil to protect the streusel from browning too quickly. Continue baking the pie for an additional 20 minutes or until you can see thickened fruit juices bubbling up from the streusel. Remove foil and allow streusel to crisp up and turn a rich golden brown in spots.
Only serve to people who appreciate the taste of almonds.