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.


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.


*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.


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

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Fiery Fall Colors

Dogwood (Cornus kousa) 'Celestial Shadow'
The autumn colors here are still magnificent. We have yet to have a freeze and I love how the temperatures stay on an even scale, just dipping ever so slowly. The overnight temperatures are averaging around 40 with the daytime highs around 50. The gray wet weather pattern that dominates the winter season has begun.

Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) (seedling)
The two Japanese Maples that flank our back deck have been very slow in turning color but all of a sudden they are spectacular. These were unnamed varieties and I chose them mainly because they were large specimens at a decent price. They have put on quite a bit of growth this year.

Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood'
An existing Japanese Maple in the front yard is "Bloodgood". It too has grown well but there is significent bark damage and I am reluctantly considering replacing it. I would like a taller tree for that spot. It pains me to dig this one up though.

Acer palmatum ‘Murasaki Kiyohime’
A dwarf Japanese Maple, also already in existence, is planted next to the front door stoop. It is 'Murasaki Kiyohime' and it has been slow to change color.

Acer palmatum 'Shaina'
 'Shaina' was just added earlier this summer. That is Japanese Blood Grass planted at the base.

Some more trees and shrubs showing off their fall finery -

Dwarf Red-Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea 'Kelseyi')
Barberry (Berberis thunbergii 'Orange Rocket')

Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica)
Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum)

And lastly, although not really fitting the "colorful" category, is nevertheless an amazing plant at the moment - the Strawberry Tree (Arbutus). This is a new plant for me and I am loving it.
Strawberry Tree (Arbutus)

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy