I was fairly restrained this Christmas with purchasing food frippery. Yes OK, there’s an unopened large tin of Roses, plus a couple of giant toblerones lurking in a cupboard somewhere and we still seem to have half a pot of twiglets (honestly, I think they multiply whenever you put the lid back on), but with regard to those odd purchases that only seem like a good idea for two short weeks in December, I didn’t do badly...except for this jar of apricots in amaretto syrup.
What can I say? I lost my mind. I’m not mad about apricots...ditto amaretto. But the jar was nice and it was a special price if you bought a matching jar of cherries in port (expect to see these featured in future weeks/months!).
I fancied making pastry this weekend and chose this almond pastry to compliment the amaretto. I thought about making a crème patisserie filling but wanted something more set – so opted for panna cotta.
Panna cotta is so easy to make and has such a lovely creamy flavour and texture that I wonder why it isn’t used more in baking. It is a perfect filling for tarts as it sets and then cuts into lovely clean slices. Plus, unlike some crème patisserie or custards, when cut it doesn’t all squidge into an untidy mess. I think it looks rather elegant!
Yes, this tart tasted as heavenly as you’d expect; if you want to know just how heavenly, Mr CC had a second slice...Mr CC never has a second slice of anything (until now!). While I wasn’t overly keen on the amaretto apricots on their own, when eaten with the pannacotta and pastry all the flavours balanced out so that the fruitiness tempered the creaminess and vice versa.
I only used the apricots as I’m determined to exhaust my Christmas stocks before Easter arrives (for me this is traditionally the next period of grocery madness on the calendar). It would work well with any fruit; I already thinking of raspberries perhaps setting some in the base of the panna cotta itself.
For the almond shortcrust pastry:
170g plain flour
60g ground almonds
110g unsalted butter, cold
50g icing sugar
2 egg yolks, plus 1 further egg yolk when baking
2 tablespoons cold water
For the panna cotta:
6 gelatine leaves
500ml milk (anything but skimmed – does that even contain milk?)
500ml double cream
1 vanilla pod, cut open and seeds scraped out
50g caster sugar
To finish the tart: apricot halves in amaretto syrup
Start by making the pastry: Place the flour and ground almonds in a food processor and briefly pulse until they are combined.
Add the butter, diced into small cubes, and blitz until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. If you don’t have a food processor you can use the rubbing in method.
Add the sugar and blitz briefly.
Add the 2 egg yolks and water and pulse the processor until the dough just starts to come together.
Tip the dough out onto a sheet of clingfilm and bring together into a soft ball.
Flatten the ball into a disc shape (this will make rolling out easier) and wrap in the clingfilm.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/ fan oven 170°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.
Roll the chilled pastry out between two sheets of clingfilm and use to line a 23cm loose bottomed round flan tin. No need to grease the tin as the pastry is buttery enough not to stick. It is very important that your pastry has no holes in it so patch carefully if need be! Don’t trim the pastry yet – leave the excess hanging over the side.
Line the pastry with a sheet of baking paper and weigh down with some baking beans.
Bake the pastry case for 15 minutes, then remove the beans and paper.
Brush with the remaining egg yolk (this seals up any tiny cracks and ensures the pastry won’t leak when you fill it with panna cotta) and bake for a further 5 minutes or until the pastry is golden and cooked. The pastry will not be baked again so must be fully cooked at this stage.
Leave to cool on a wire rack – do not remove from the tin until you serve the tart.
When cool, trim the excess pastry away; some will have already dropped off during cooking. (BTW, don’t throw the offcuts – they are delicious! Cooks perks and all that....)
Now make the panna cotta: Soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water until they are soft.
Place the milk, cream, vanilla pod, vanilla seeds and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Discard the vanilla pod.
Squeeze as much water as you can out of the gelatine leaves and whisk into the creamy mixture. It will dissolve pretty quickly but make sure you’ve thoroughly whisked it in as you don’t want lumps.
Leave the panna cotta mixture to cool for about 20 minutes.
Ladle the mixture into your cooled pastry case.
Refrigerate for several hours (overnight is best).
On the day of serving place the apricot halves on top of the set panna cotta and drizzle some of the amaretto syrup over the top.
Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.