Sweet summertime apricots


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There’s nothing quite like the luxury of tree-ripened apricots.

My sister gave me a basket of fresh farm-grown plums and apricots, both of which I have craved for a long time. The plums are my favorite variety, Santa Rosa. The apricots are the Blenheim variety, also my favorite.

The fruit given to me is so far above anything to be had in grocery stores, because it was picked ripe. (I don’t think Santa Rosa plums are even to be found in most stores.) No setting it out on the counter to soften up. Once plucked from the trees, plums and apricots are not going to get any sweeter, just softer.

My favorite way to eat fruit is just plain, right off the tree. But sometimes I do go through my recipes when I feel like baking or preserving fruit. Let’s get right to some good ones.

Apricot blueberry muffins

4 fresh apricots, peeled, pitted, and diced, about 1 cup

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Dash ground nutmeg

6 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 cup milk

1 large egg

1. Preheat oven to 375. Toss diced apricots and blueberries with lemon juice. Set aside. Grease and flour 12 muffin cups or line with paper liners. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl.

2. In another bowl, whisk together butter, milk and egg. Stir milk mixture into the dry ingredients and blend just until moistened. Fold in the fruit mixture. Spoon batter into muffin cups.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for about 3 minutes in pan then remove to cool completely. Makes 12 muffins.

Apricot coconut bars

Made with preserves rather than fresh apricots.

3/4 cup butter, softened at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/3 cups sweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 jar (10 to 12 ounces) apricot preserves

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk flour and baking powder; gradually add to creamed mixture, mixing well. Fold in coconut and walnuts.

2. Press two-thirds of dough onto the bottom of a greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Spread with preserves; crumble remaining dough over preserves. Bake in preheated oven 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes about 2 dozen bars.

Apricot cobbler

1 1/2 pounds fresh ripe apricots, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons Minute tapioca (not the large ball kind)

2/3 cup water

3/4 cup flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup (half a stick) cold butter, cut up

1/3 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 375. In a medium saucepan, mix apricots, 3/4 cup sugar and the tapioca. Stir in water. Bring to boil on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Pour into ovenproof 9-inch square baking dish that has been coated with baking spray; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter with pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in milk until mixture forms soft dough. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto hot fruit mixture.

3. Bake in preheated oven 30 minutes or until biscuit topping is golden brown. Makes 9 servings.

Apricot turnovers

Puff pastry does not keep well, so these are best if eaten the same day they are baked. Also if you thaw frozen puff pastry on the counter, use it while it is still cold and not room temperature.

1 sheet ready to bake puff pastry, thawed

4 or 5 fresh ripe apricots, pitted and sliced

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon almond extract

Squeeze of lemon juice

1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 400. In medium or large mixing bowl, toss sliced apricots, cornstarch, sugar, almond extract and lemon juice until everything is well mixed and there are no lumps of cornstarch remaining. Set aside for about 15 minutes.

2. On a floured surface, roll puff pastry out to an 11-by-11-inch square. Cut pastry into 4 squares.

3. Spoon a little of the apricot mixture onto the center of each square. Gently pull one side over into a triangle, gently stretching it over the fruit. Use a fork to press along the edges to seal.

4. Brush each turnover lightly with the egg wash, then cut a couple of small slits in the top with a sharp paring knife.

5. Bake in preheated oven on a parchment lined baking sheet for about 20 minutes, or until the turnovers are risen and golden brown. Makes 4 servings.

6. Cool slightly, dust with powdered sugar if you want to, and serve as soon as you can.

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