Saturday, December 9, 2017

Winter Is Here

hinoki-cypress
Cones on Hinoki Cypress

Our first full year in the Pacific Northwest has definitely been one for weather records. One year ago today, we got a light snow and later in January we got almost a foot. Summer brought a lot of really hot days (I can't remember if there was a record number or not). Now, we are experiencing an unusual dry spell. This has happened about eight times in the past. The present stretch of dry days is expected to last a week or so. During the last week, we also got our first major frost.

strawberry-plants-frost
Strawberry plants

The frost is pretty but it is so cold. Last night the temperature dipped into the upper 20s. I brought the last of the tender potted plants from the deck into the garage just last week.

rose-frost
No more roses for a while

ornamental-grass-hamelyn
Pennisetum alopecuriodes 'Hameln'

mugo-pine-frost

Pinus mugo 'Aurea' (Mugo Pine)


lettuce-frost
Not sure if it will help or not, but I covered the lettuce and cabbage although I forgot to cover this patch.

aster-frost

I am taking advantage of the dry weather and continuing work on the terraced area. My goal is to get this section completed over the winter months. That is, if the weather and my budget will cooperate. I have been so discouraged by the price of rocks. The small section you see below was a full load and you can see they don't go far...

steps-wall


garden-steps

And the Christmas decorations are up...


xmastree


mailbox-christmas Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Apricot Tart


These rainy, cold, blustery days call for some baking!

Apricot Tart

The filling, divine enough to eat as a breakfast treat, can be made days ahead and refrigerated. I made this three days before baking the tart and stored it in the refrigerator.

Filling

12 ounces dried apricots
2 cups water
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
Optional: 1 TBS. rum, cognac or kirsch (I used kirsch)
Optional: 2 TBS thinly sliced toasted almonds (I did not use

Soak the apricots overnight in the water.
Place the soaked apricots and water in a heavy saucepan. Add the sugar and mix.
Over high heat, stir the mixture until it comes to a boil.
Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Uncover, raise the heat to high again. Stir constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and the apricots fall apart. This will take a while (almost 20 minutes for me). You can also slice the apricots as you do it with your spoon.
Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and almond extracts and the optional liquor and almonds.

Pastry


*2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 12 tablespoons (1.5 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
* 1/2 cup ice water

Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter and pulse 10 to 12 times, until the butter is in small bits the size of peas. With the motor running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. When ready to use, roll out on a floured board. Line a pie pan (or tart pan) with half the dough and set aside the remainder to use as a top crust.


Glaze (applied to top of tart before baking)


Beat together:
1 egg yolk
1 tsp water

Apricot Glaze (applied after baking and tart has cooled)

1/4 cup apricot preserves
2 tsp water

Bring the mixture to a boil and brush over the top of the tart.

Baking

Preheat the oven to 375 and butter a 9 1/2 x 3/4 inch flan ring. Place the flan ring on an ungreased cookie sheet. Adjust your oven racks with the bottom rack one third from the bottom and the second rack in the center of the oven.




Spoon the apricot mixture into the pastry shell. Cover with the other half of the pastry. Pinch the two crusts together around the perimeter with your fingers. Cut off the dough that rises over the top of the pan. Cut some slits along the top of the crust. Apply the glaze with a pastry brush. 





The additional dough can be used for decorative strips or other embellishments (I have a little dough cutter that cuts in the shape of leaves - really cute!)

Bake on the bottom rack for 30 minutes at 375. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 and move the tart to the center rack. Bake an additional 20-30 minutes until the top is browned slightly.

After baking, carefully remove the tart from the flan ring and allow to cool.

Brush with apricot glaze. Serve with vanilla ice cream!




Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy