Archive for: apricot
When all kinds of fruits come into season at around the same time, I end up trying to cram all kinds of things into each dish I make. It takes a lot of editing to pick out one or two fruits to include in the final result, but it’s necessary editing as no one really wants fruit salad muffins regardless of how delicious a fruit salad is. After all, you really want to be able to taste the individual fruit flavors in your finished dish.
These muffins got edited down to blueberries and apricots, inspired by some muffins I had a while back at Starbucks that incorporated the same fruits. The blueberries add lots of flavor, as you might expect, and the apricots add both a honey-like floral flavor and a lot of moisture. I used both fresh blueberries and fresh apricots for these muffins. You can use fresh or frozen blueberries for these muffins. Frozen apricots would work, but they’re hard to find unless you’ve frozen them yourself during the peak of their season. Another advantage to the fresh apricots is that you cane make some small slices to garnish the tops of the muffins.
The muffins are just dense enough to hold up all the fruit in the batter, but are still very moist and tender. The bread part of the muffin has a good buttermilk flavor to it, but the real flavor comes from all that fruit. Blueberries and apricots work great together, and even though they both contribute moisture to the cupcakes, neither one is so moist that they make the muffins soggy or wet at all. They’re very low in fat, although there is a fair amount of sugar in them, so they don’t feel too indulgent or too heavy in your stomach.
Scones are one food that can illicit surprisingly strong reactions from people. Some people love them (usually people who have had good scones) and others hate them (usually people who have had bad scones. Some like a traditional scone that wants to be topped with jam and cream, others want something more tender, moist and sweet on its own, a cross between a muffin and a cookie. I like them all, but made it a point to experiment with scones a bit to see if I could come up with one that would satisfy both the traditionalists and those who prefer the latter type of scone.
The traditional method for making a scone is to cut cold butter into a flour mixture, much like making biscuits or pie crust. Instead of doing this, I blended softened butter into the flour mixture for the scones, as I often do when making shortbread. This serves to make them more tender and a bit less flaky or biscuit-like because a lot of the butter ends up in very tiny pieces, moreso than cold butter would.
This method works extremely well for these scones. They bake up to have a crisp, sugar-topped crust and a fairly moist interior. They’re quite light and very tender, thanks both to the method of mixing in the butter and the inclusion of oats. I used dried apricots and cut them into fairly large chunks to make sure that you get lots of apricot flavor in each bite.
At first glance, you might not think that chocolate and apricots go together – or, at least, several of my tasters seemed to have this opinion when I brought this quickbread out. They were converted to the combination immediately after their first bite (at which time I pointed out that chocolate-dipped dried apricots are actually quite common). Fruit and chocolate make a great combination in almost all circumstances – and if it’s not working out, chances are that all you need to do is tweak the type of chocolate a bit until you find one that works.
Back to the bread, there is no tweaking necessary here. This is a straightforward loaf that is easy to mix and offers lots of flavor when it’s finished. It uses dried apricots, fresh apricots and semisweet chocolate chips in a sweet bread batter that is flavored with orange juice and orange zest. The orange flavor is very subtle, but does give a nice background flavor to the bread. The bread is very moist, thanks in part to all the fresh apricot included in the batter, and keeps very well for several days.
I’d stick with semisweet chocolate chips because they provide just the right amount of chocolatiness without being too bitter (very dark chocolate might distract from the fruits) and sweetness (milk chocolate might make the loaf too sweet overall). I garnished the top of the loaf with a couple of slices of fresh apricot, dividing one small apricot into pieces. This is entirely optional, but does give a nice look to the top of the bread.
The more fruit you have in the kitchen at any given time, the more difficult it is to use it up before some of it begins to become overripe. Apples, for instance, are durable, but the majority of summer produce – stone fruits, berries, etc. – either continues to ripen on your counter or simply starts to go bad the minute it comes through the door. So, while it’s always good to have a recipe that will use up only a bit of fruit, it’s also good to have options that call for a lot.
Poaching is a great way to cook fruit in big batches. Ripe, or almost-ripe, fruit is placed in a saucepan full of some sort of flavored poaching liquid and cooked until tender. The resulting fruit can be eaten plain, with yogurt, used as a topping for cake or ice cream and in just about any other application where fruit might be appropriate. I used a lot of apriums (an apricot-plum hybrid) here. Not only do they have a great, sweet flavor, but they’re amazingly easy to split in half – so easy that I could just pop them in half without using a knife and pull out the pits!
The poaching liquid here is very simple and the flavors complement the stone fruits well. When you make it, you have two options for serving. Either you can serve the fruits on their own, or remove the fruits from the liquid and reduce it by half, until it is somewhat syrupy, then add it back to the fruit for a saucier presentation.
If you want to find the best fruits you can, your best bet is to find out what is in season and seek it out from a high-quality vendor at a good local farmer’s market, where the produce will be the freshest. If you want to find the perfect fruit, however, your best bet is to become a biologist who specializes in fruit genetics. Biologist Floyd Zaiger has pretty much dedicated his career to the development of the perfect fruit and, as a result of his work, we’re seeing all kinds of interesting fruit hybrids gaining popularity.
The most well-know is the pluot, since it is currently the most widely available new hybrid. It’s a cross between a plum and an apricot, roughly 75% plum and 25% apricot. They resemble plums in appearance, with smooth red skin that is sometimes mottled with a lighter yellow-red color, and taste quite a bit sweeter than your average plum, although they are fairly similar in flavor. There are several varieties of pluot, so color and shape can vary a bit. The fruits are also slightly hardier than pure plums are, so they ship and store better than the non-hybrids. They are in season from about May through September.
Apriots are also plum-apricot hybrids, but they have the opposite ratio of pluots: roughly 25% plum and 75% apricot. They look very like apricots and have a fuzzy, pink-hued yellow skin, although they are slightly larger than apricots are. They are very sweet, with an unusualy high sugar content even for ripe stone fruit. Their season is very short and usually only lasts through the month of June, give or take a few weeks.
Other hybrid fruits that Zaiger, though his company Zaiger’s Genetics, has developed include: peacotums (peach-apricot-plum), plumcots (another plum-apricot) and nectaplums (nectarine-plum) and nectarcots (nectarine-apricot), as well as a wide variety of other hybrids involving stone fruits.