If you fail to find fresh apricots, drained canned ones, especially those that are not overly sugared, make an adequate substitute.
Makes twelve 4-inch pastries
1/2 cup whole almonds, with or without skin, finely ground in the food processor
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 batch Quick Puff Pastry (see below) or a 1-pound package of all-butter prepared puff pastry
6 fresh apricots, rinsed, halved and pitted
Egg Wash: 1 egg well beaten with a pinch of salt
Confectioners’ sugar for finishing
One large cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan lined with parchment paper or foil
- For the filling, combine the almonds, butter, and sugar in a medium bowl and use a small rubber spatula to beat them together. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, followed by the lemon zest and vanilla. Stir in the flour.
- Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 400˚F. Place the dough on a floured surface and lightly flour the dough. Use your rolling pin to press the dough in firm parallel strokes in both directions to soften it slightly. Flour the surface and the dough again, if necessary, and roll the dough to a 12 x 17-inch rectangle. Slide the dough to a cookie sheet or flexible cutting board and refrigerate it until firm, about 10 minutes.
- Use a pizza wheel to cut away a 1-inch-wide strip of dough from one of the 12-inch sides and reserve it. Cut the remaining dough into 12 4-inch squares. Make a 2-inch diagonal cut from each corner toward the center of the square.
- Leave the squares of dough in place on the work surface and drop 1 heaping teaspoon of the almond filling in the center of each. Place one of the apricot halves cut side down on the filling.
- Starting with the top left point, move clockwise to fold every other point into the center over the apricot. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. Place them on the prepared pan.
- Use a 1-inch round cutter to cut the reserved piece of dough into 12 disks. Brush a little egg wash in the center of each pastry; center one of the disks of dough on top of each. Brush the pastries with the egg wash.
- Bake the pastries until they are deep golden and the filling is set, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.
- Immediately before serving, generously dust the pastries with confectioners’ sugar.
QUICK PUFF PASTRY
There is only one inviolable rule for preparing quick or any other kind of puff pastry—make sure it’s cool in your kitchen or the dough will turn into a gooey mess.
Makes about 1 1/2 pounds dough
10 ounces (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cold water
- Cut 2 sticks of the butter into 1/4-inch cubes. Scrape them onto a plate in one layer and refrigerate them.
- Put the flour and salt in a bowl and stir a couple of times to combine. Cut the remaining 4 tablespoons butter into thin shreds and add to the bowl. Rub in the butter, squeezing it with your fingertips, rubbing the butter and flour mixture between the palms of your hands and reaching down to the bottom of the bowl. Repeat until the flour and butter are evenly mixed. This only takes a couple of minutes—the mixture should remain cool and powdery. Alternatively, pulse the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor fitted with the metal blade until no visible pieces of butter remain, then pour the mixture into a bowl.
- Add the chilled butter cubes to the bowl and use a rubber spatula to fold them in.
- Set aside 2 tablespoons of the measured water and sprinkle the remaining water on the flour and butter mixture. Use the rubber spatula to fold everything together, scraping from the bottom of the bowl upward. If there are a lot of dry bits of unmoistened flour, sprinkle on the remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time, folding it in as before.
- Scrape the dough from the bowl to a floured work surface and lightly flour the dough. Use your hands to squeeze and shape the dough into a cylinder, then press down with the palm of one hand to flatten it into a rectangle.
- Flour the surface and the dough, and starting at the narrow end of the rectangle farthest from you, use a rolling pin to press the dough firmly in parallel strokes close to each other. If there are sticky pieces of butter on the surface of the dough, seal them with a large pinch of flour, making sure to clean off anything stuck to the rolling pin before continuing. Repeat the pressing motion again from the close to farther narrow end of the dough.
- Press the dough once along the width. It should now be a rectangle about 1/2-inch thick. Once again, flour under and on top of the dough and roll the dough away and back toward you in the length and once in the width, without rolling over the ends in the same direction, to make a rectangle about 18 inches long and 8 inches wide.
- Fold the two 8-inch ends of the dough in toward the middle of the rectangle, leaving a 1-inch space in the middle. Fold the top down to the bottom to form 4 layers of dough. Reposition the dough so that the folded edge that resembles the spine of a book is on your left. Rolling and folding the dough is known as “giving the dough a turn.”
- Repeat steps 6, 7, and 8.
- Repeat steps 6, 7, and 8 again.
- Wrap the dough and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours to firm up and rest its elasticity before attempting to use it.