I called my sister yesterday looking for a coffee house companion, only to find she was working, as she does 4 days a week selling fruit at the local farmers markets. I was mentally preparing for solitude with an afternoon cup of joe when she changed my plans with a single phrase.
“It’s the last week for apricots.”
It hit me all at once. One of my favorite fruits, the tangy apricot had nearly passed me by. How did this happen? Could it be that without Merv, our favorite farmer at Eva delivering boxes strait from his
Luckily for me, my sister came to the rescue, sparing me a year without apricots. Once I drove across town to the farmers market she was working at, she gave me a paper sack full of a large, more acidic variety that fits my liking best. More acidic is a relative term as these beauties were so perfectly ripe that their sugar content trumped any trace of pucker.
I ate as many as I could before getting home, where the sack was placed on my kitchen counter for further consumption. However, when I reached in the bag this morning to add an apricot to my Greek yogurt, a treat I had been longing for since the night before, it became evident by my now gooey fingertips that these apricots needed to be dealt with promptly. And a girl can only eat so many apricots.
I began brainstorming, contemplating the best use for ripe, ripe, ripe apricots. One thought of crumble and I looked no further. The apricots would melt beautifully under the cinnamon streusel, textured with a hand full of oats.
As I slipped the flesh from the apricot stones, I tucked the stones aside in a bowl. You see, apricot stones are like gold to me. Inside the thick, brittle stone is an “almond.” A kernel really, with the same intense flavor of a bitter almond. This unique flavor extracted from bitter almonds to make almond flavoring is owed to a single flavor molecule; Benzaldahyde. This flavor is present in bitter almonds, the pits of apricots which are responsible for the liquor Amaretto, and the hearts of all stone fruits. In
This diamond in the rough is never spared in my kitchens, every pit saved for use somewhere. For this simple crumble, I chopped the apricot kernels finely and tossed it with the apricots and sugar. In the professional kitchen, these kernels are often steeped with cream and used to make ice cream to top the crumble, or a bavarian or panna cotta to serve with a stone fruit accompaniment. I may also grind the kernels with sugar in a food processor to save for later use in peach pie, nectarine crostada, apricot crumble, or cherry turnovers.
You get the idea. And to Michael and all those who asked of my last post, “what is cherry stone ice cream?” it’s this that I speak of, steeping cream for ice cream with the kernels found inside the hearts of stone fruits to release their almondy flavor.
This is my all purpose crumble topping recipe, developed over time from one my mom handed down to me. She took it from Laurels Kitchen, but as we looked over it together years ago, she followed each ingredient with the alteration she makes. “So you need ¼ cup sugar, well I always double that and use brown sugar. It calls for bran but I always skip that and add more oats. Then I melt extra butter and just add what ever it needs. Oh, and I always double the recipe.”
This recipe can be altered in many ways for use all season. You can play around by changing the sugar to all brown or all white depending on the delicacy of the fruit you choose. The oats can be withheld, replaced by nuts, and the cinnamon can be omitted or changed to any spice you feel fits the bill.
I am topping my own crumble with a healthy dollop of the greek yogurt I spoke of. I have never been a whipped cream kind of girl. Sweetened with a little honey, I use greek yogurt in place of whipped cream nearly everywhere I can.
Roughly 20 to 30 apricots, depending on size
1/3 cup sugar, more if the apricots are tart
2 tbsp. Cornstarch
10 kernels broken free from the apricot pits
- Half the apricots and remove the pits, setting them aside. Cut the apricot halves into 4 pieces and set them in a large bowl.
- With a dishtowel covering the pits, crack them open with a blow from a heavy bottomed pot or pan, or a hammer. Alternately, use a nut cracker. Extract the “almond” like kernels from the center of each fruit, reserving 10 that are of nice size and healthy looking.
- Pulse the sugar and apricot “almonds” in a food processor until the “almonds” are finely ground. Alternately, chop them very fine with a knife and toss with the sugar.
- Add the sugar and cornstarch to the apricots and toss until evenly coated. Fill the desired shallow ovenproof baking dish or individual ramekins with the apricots and set aside while you make the topping.
1 cup butter
2 ½ cups flour
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
(Optional ½ cup old fashioned rolled oats or chopped nuts)
- Melt the butter and set aside to cool. You are just cooling it enough that you can mix it into the other ingredients with your hands and not burn yourself.
- Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and toss with your hands, breaking the brown sugar up with your fingers while you mix.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the cooled butter in.
- Mix with your hands, breaking up any large lumps while tossing until the entire mixture is moist and crumbly.
- Top your apricots with this mixture and bake in a 375 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes. It will be done when the juices bubble and the top looks lightly browned.