On a 60-acre farm on the outskirts of Mount Airy, there are thousands of fruit trees — so many varieties of peaches that not all of them have names — acres of blueberry bushes and blackberry brambles, and right in the heart of all this fruity goodness, there is one, single, solitary aprium tree.
Apriums, an apricot-plum hybrid, are half apricot, half plum, and totally delicious. Meatier than plums and juicier and sweeter than most apricots, with more complex flavor, the single tree containing them can be found on Miss Angel’s Farm on the outskirts of Mount Airy.
Apriums ripen a week or so before peaches, so the lone aprium tree is the first on the large farm to bear fruit. Standing underneath the tree and its glorious bounty in early June feels a little like the Garden on Eden if it were in Opposite Land. Unlike the Tree of Knowledge, the Tree of Apriums is the only tree one can eat from at that particular moment.
Plucking an aprium from the tree and biting into it right then and there is an amazing experience, almost life-changing, but in a good way, not in a bringing evil into the world kind of way. As the juice runs down your chin, it is impossible to be less than completely happy in that moment.
You’ll want to take about a dozen home with you to prolong that moment by making an aprium almond tart, and maybe another dozen for an aprium pie or an aprium skillet cake, and be sure to get an extra dozen to nosh on in the car on the drive home, or you won’t have enough apriums left when you get home to bake yourself a tart or pie.
The tart recipe below has a distinct almond flavor from the almond paste used in the filling, which balances perfectly with the apriums. There’s also almond meal, sometimes called almond flour, in the pastry. It is made by finely grinding raw, usually blanched almonds. Bob’s Red Mill brand almond meal is available at Lowes Foods and Trader Joe’s. You can make your own almond meal by processing blanched almonds in a food processor, watching carefully to avoid making almond butter. (Freezing the almonds before grinding helps protect against this happening.) Lowes also has almond paste, which is different from marzipan in that it contains more almonds and less sugar.
The apriums used in the recipes below came from Miss Angels Farm, but the recipes themselves did not. Miss Angel has her own recipes which are a closely guarded secret. These will have to do.
Aprium Almond Tart
Makes 8 to 10 servings
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup fine stone-ground yellow cornmeal
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 8 pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (5 ounces) almond paste
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 pounds Apriums (about 12 medium), halved and pitted
1/3 cup apricot jam, melted over low heat, or 2 tbsp. granulated sugar, for glazing
To make the crust, put the flour, almond meal, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to mix. Scatter the butter over the top and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Add the egg and process just until the dough begins to clump around the blade.
Transfer the dough to a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, breaking it into pieces and distributing it evenly around the pan. Using your hands or the bottom of a water glass dipped in flour, press the dough to cover the bottom and sides evenly. Place the pan on a rimless baking sheet, loosely cover with plastic film, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.
Preheat the oven to 375°F, with a rack in the upper third.
To make the filling, crumble the almond paste into the food processor and process until it is the texture of sand. (If the almond paste is hard, chop or coarsely grate it first.) Add the eggs, vanilla, and salt and process until smooth. Add the butter and process just until smooth, stopping and scraping down the bowl of the processor as needed. Add the flour and pulse just until combined.
Spread the almond filling over the bottom of the pastry. Stand the Aprium halves, cut-side up, on the filling, leaning one against the next in overlapping, concentric circles, like a fallen stack of dominoes. (If the Apriums are 2 inches or larger, cut them into quarters and place them cut side down on the filling.)
Bake for 35 minutes, then remove from the oven and raise the heat to 400 degrees F. Brush the Apriums with the melted jam. Alternatively, sprinkle the granulated sugar evenly over the fruit, taking care to avoid the pastry. Return the tart to the oven and bake until the Apriums are glazed and tinged with brown in spots, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 45 minutes.
Center the cooled tart on a glass or small bowl to allow the outer ring to fall away. Transfer the tart, still on the pan base, to a serving plate. Alternatively, use a large metal spatula or rimless baking sheet to slide the tart from its base onto the plate. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. A dollop of créme fraîche would be nice.
Refrigerate leftover tart, tightly covered, for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Aprium pie with sour cream custard, rum, and ginger with no-roll pie crust
Yield: one 9-inch pie – 8 servings
For the crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 cup (half a stick) frozen butter
1 tbsp. sour cream
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. coconut oil, you can substitute with more vegetable oil if you prefer.
2 tbsp. cold milk
2 cups dried beans, or pie weights
For the crumble
1/4 cup (half a stick) butter, refrigerated
5 tbsp. flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
For the pie filling
1 medium-sized bowl of ice
2 pounds (approximately 12) fresh apriums
3 tbsp. spiced rum, such as Malibu
3 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sour cream, divided
Additional sour cream, for topping
Make the crust:
Whisk together flour salt, baking powder, sugar, and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Set aside. Use the smallest-holed side of a cheese grater to grate the frozen butter onto a plate. Place the butter in the freezer for 5 minutes. Use a fork or pastry blender to cut the frozen butter and sour cream into the flour mixture, making sure to incorporate everything until it’s the size of small peas. Parts of the dough may have a sandy texture, which is fine.
Whisk together the vegetable oil, coconut oil and milk in a small bowl. Pour into the flour mixture and use a fork to completely incorporate the wet and dry ingredients. The finished texture should be relatively loose and gravelly. Pour the crust mix into a dry 9-inch pie plate. Use your fingers to press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan, making sure to cover all surfaces, including the rim. Cover the pie crust with tin foil, pushing the foil down so that it comes in contact with the bottom and sides of the crust. Place the pie crust in the freezer.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. After 20 minutes, remove the pie crust from the freezer and fill the foil-covered crust with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove beans and foil from crust and bake another 5 minutes uncovered. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Do not turn off oven.
Make the crumble
Remove butter from refrigerator and cut into small chunks. Lay butter chunks in a single layer on a plate and place back in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Combine flour, powdered sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Add chilled butter and use a fork or pastry blender to to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. The crumble should cling together like small stones. Place crumble in refrigerator until ready to use.
Make the filling and construct the pie:
Prepare a large pot of boiling water and a large bowl of cold water. After the water is boiling, add ice to the bowl of cold water. Carefully set the apriums in the hot water, 3 or 4 at a time, and allow them to boil for 1 and 1/2 minutes. Fish them out of the boiling water with a slotted spoon and slide them into the bowl of ice water. Turn the apriums in the ice water until they are cool on all sides. Using your fingers, gently remove the skin from the fruit – it should slide right off. Repeat until you have peeled all the apriums.
Cut the peeled apriums in half and remove the pit from each one. Slice into uniform 1/2-inch slices and set the slices aside in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine rum, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Mix well using a fork and pour over aprium slices. Use your hands to gently mix the fruit slices with the rum mixture, making sure every slice is covered with rum. Let the apriums soak in the rum for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring the whole lot to ensure even soaking.
Spread 1/4 cup of sour cream into the bottom of the pre-baked pie crust, creating an even layer. Remove the crumble from the refrigerator, use your fingers to crumble it into small chunks, and spread half of the crumble in a layer on top of the sour cream. Lay the soaked aprium slices in circles on top of the crumble layer, making sure to use all slices. (they’ll all fit if you nudge them around) Dot the top with the remaining 1/4 cup of sour cream and sprinkle the top of the pie evenly with the remaining crumble.
Cover just the edges of the crust with tin foil to prevent them from burning. Bake the pie in a 350°F oven for 50 minutes, or until the crumble is golden brown. Once the pie is done, remove the foil from the edges and let cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before serving. Serve topped with a generous dollop of sour cream.
Skillet Aprium Cake
Use a smallish skillet, about 8 inches
4-5 apriums, sliced into 6-8 slices
¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup slivered almonds
¾ cup flour, plus additional for dusting pan
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
1 large egg, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. almond extract
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare the skillet by greasing it with butter or shortening. Very lightly sprinkle flour over the pan. (Excess flour is harder to shake out of the skillet than a cake pan, so sprinkle lightly.) Set the pan aside while you prepare the batter.
In a food processor or spice blender, combine the sugar and almonds and grind until finely ground. Dump the contents into a large bowl and whisk or mix in the flour, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry cutter or fork, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like wet sand. Continue to cut in the egg and egg yolk, vanilla and almond extract. Once the mixture mostly comes together, switch to a large spatula to completely combine the batter. The batter will be very thick and dense.
Dump the batter into the skillet and smooth out the batter to even the top. Press the apriums firmly into the batter, fanning the slices of fruit around the cake, overlapping one after the other. Do not let the fruit touch the edge of the skillet. Place a few slices in the center, as well, creating two layers of fruit.
Bake the cake for 40-50 minutes, until the edges are a deep golden brown and when a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with just a few crumbs attached. Allow the cake to cool to room temperature and serve in wedges.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.