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Short and Sweet

That’s what apricot season usually is.

But according to reports, this year’s will be even briefer because an early frost and a rainy spring wrecked havoc on fragile apricot blossoms.

So if you still spy apricots at your local farmers’ market, do pick some up to enjoy.

That way, you also can bake this beauty — “Apricot, Almond Brown Butter Tart” by Cindy Pawlcyn, chef-owner of Napa Valley’s Mustards Grill, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, and Go Fish.

Made with slivered almonds pulverized with confectioners’ sugar, flour, and eggs, the tart tastes faintly of almond paste. It’s moist and sweet like that, too. Plus it has a very rich buttery flavor. (There’s 1 1/2 sticks of butter in this tart, if you must know.) Indeed, the tart’s foundation is a buttery crust that’s pre-baked. Apricot halves poke through the top all the way around, like sunshine bursting through the clouds.

The only change I would make is the baking time for the crust. I followed the directions to blind-bake the crust with pie weights and foil for 50 minutes, then for another 25 minutes after removing the weights and foil. That seemed like an awfully long time, and turns out it definitely was, as I ended up with a really dark brown crust that took some real effort to crack through with a fork. Next time, I’d go with the more conventional baking time of 20 minutes with pie weights and foil, followed by another 10 minutes without.

The recipe can be made with 2 cups dried apricots or about 10-12 fresh ones. But definitely go with the fresh while you still can.

Apricot, Almond Brown Butter Tart

(Makes one 12-inch tart)

This dried apricot tart is crispy and tender, tangy and sweet all at the same time. The recipe can be made with fresh apricots; just omit the poaching step.

For tart shell:

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) chilled, unsalted butter, diced

5 tablespoons ice water

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For filling:

3/4 cup slivered almonds

2 cups dry white wine

2 cups dried apricots (10 ounces)

1 stick unsalted butter

1 vanilla bean — halved lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved

1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

Sweetened whipped cream, for serving

To make tart shell: In a food processor, pulse flour with sugar and salt. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add ice water and vanilla extract and pulse just until dough comes together. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface; flatten it into a disk. Wrap disk in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour, until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to a 15-inch round, 1/4 inch thick. Transfer round to a 12-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom; gently press it over the bottom and up the side. Trim any exess. Refrigerate tart shell for at least 20 minutes, until firm.

Line tart shell with foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for about 20 minutes, until shell starts to brown around the edges. Remove foil and weights and bake for about 10-15 minutes longer, until shell is cooked through. Transfer to a rack and let cool. Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees.

To make the filling: Spread slivered almonds on a large rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven for about 6 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool.

Meanwhile, in a medium nonreactive saucepan, bring wine to a boil. Add apricots, cover and simmer over moderate heat until plumped, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a small skillet, cook butter with vanilla bean seeds over moderate heat until browned, about 4 minutes.

In a food processor, pulse toasted almonds with confectioners’ sugar, flour and salt until finely ground. Add eggs and pulse until just combined. Add browned butter and the almond extract and pulse until smooth.

Drain apricots and pat dry. (Or alternately, cut fresh apricots in half, and remove pits, if using fresh ones.) Pour almond filling into tart shell. Nestle apricots into the filling in concentric circles. Bake tart for about 50 minutes, until filling is golden brown and set.

Transfer to a rack to cool. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature, dolloped with sweetened whipped cream.

Adapted from a recipe by Cindy Pawlcyn as published in Food & Wine Magazine, April 2009

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