A simple showcase for golden apricots

Recipe: Baked apricots in almond cream

Baked apricots in almond cream
Apricots baked in almond cream is an easy summer dessert. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)
A golden fruit for the Golden State, apricots are a favorite California delicacy, especially in June at the start of summer. Fragile and delicate, apricots feel special. I try to treasure everyone I pick.

I've loved apricots as long as I can remember. I'm sure I ate them (strained) as a baby. I've enjoyed them ever since.

As a gardener, apricots taught me patience. You have to wait and wait and wait until they're almost just right. Then, wait some more as they continue to soften and ripen off the tree, sitting on the kitchen counter tempting me.

Apricots on a plate
Eight ripe apricots are enough for a delicious dessert.
Growing up with an abundant tree, I assumed all backyard apricot trees would be as equally fruitful. But no; the birds and squirrels are ever opportunistic.

Besides apricot trees in my own yard, I was very pleased to see an apricot among the little orchard at our community garden. In five years, I picked two apricots. Pruning at the wrong time, lack of consistent irrigation, stink bugs and hungry critters made our apricot crops extremely slim. Three years, there were no apricots at all.

But this spring, the community apricot tree finally bore a good crop with fruit to share. I brought home some, but not enough for a pie. Besides, it's too hot to bake a whole pie.

The solution: Skip the crust, cut the cooking time and keep it simple. Let the apricots shine.

This recipe, adapted from Nicole Routhier's "Fruit Cookbook" ( Workman, 1996), can be used with any summer stone fruit. The classic mixture of apricots and almonds smells as good as it tastes. The total oven time is under 15 minutes.

Baked apricots in almond cream
Makes 4 to 6 servings

5 tablespoons butter, room temperature, plus more to butter the pan
1/4 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup almond flour or finely ground blanched almonds
8 to 9 fresh apricots, halved and pitted
1/4 cup apricot preserves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Make the almond cream. In a bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and almond flour; mix to combine well.
The apricots are ready to be covered with almond cream.
Butter a 10-inch round pie plate or baking dish. Arrange apricots cut side down in prepared dish. Spoon almond cream over apricots, spreading to cover the fruit completely. (At this point, this dessert can be covered and refrigerated for several hours or overnight. Bring to room temperature before baking.)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Bake until the almond cream starts to set and the edges are golden, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix together the preserves and lemon juice.

Remove dish from oven. Gently spoon the preserves over the baked apricots.

Return dish to the oven and bake until topping is golden brown and bubbly, about 3 to 5 minutes longer.

Remove from oven; the almond cream will not be completely set. Let cool.

Serve warm or at room temperature with a little whipped cream, if desired.