Sweet Memories

Sometimes it's hard to remember. For me, I should say. But then there are some things that just stick. I, for one, have limited reserves up there in the ole noggin; I suppose not everything keeps because I'm holding on to some of that space for those memories that are lasting.

I don't remember when I tasted my first fresh apricot, but I always remembered not to buy them at the local grocery store, no matter how good they looked. It must have been something about that first one. (Now, dried apricots are a different thing. They're around at any time of year, and given the right kind - I prefer the tart, chewy California apricot halves over the sweet, squishy, whole Turkish apricots - they are utterly delicious.)

But then, only about a year ago, I found myself face to face with fresh apricots; this time, hanging from a tree. Now, those I do remember. And when I told a dear someone about these ambrosial stone fruits, her memory swept away to the childhood friend and afternoons roosted in an apricot tree; but by the end of the story, all I remembered was the part about the pie. During that time of year, when not lazily feasting on the sticky sweet bounty of that tree in which she was perched, her great-grandma (I guess that would be my great-great-grandma) made an apricot pie with halved apricots, face-up in milk, with maybe only a little flour and sugar to set things just right. Though she didn't remember the recipe, only watching it being made, she most certainly remembered loving everything about it.

I'm fortunate enough to have a history of some amazing cooks and bakers in my family lines. You haven't heard of any of them, but if they can create those kinds of memories in the minds of their children, grandchildren, and so forth, then that's all that matters. I have a few raggedy cookbooks filled with old recipes of ladies such as these, so naturally, I referred to them when trying to recreate this apricot milk pie. No luck, I have to say, but it seems the Pennsylvania Dutch have a milk pie within their culinary annals; just what I was looking for. Sometimes called Stingy, Flabby, or Poor Man's Pie, it is said to be a pie often made for children as a way to utilize leftover scraps of pie dough. Depending on the recipe, it is little more than milk, flour and sugar.

Pie crust and I don't really get along, so when I saw this recipe for "The Great Unshrinkable Sweet Tart Shell," I jumped on it - it was just perfect for me, as shrinking is probably my greatest ruin. I don't remember if I've ever had a crust shrink on me to such a degree as this. But I can't fault the recipe, I didn't follow it exactly I must say, I did rush things a bit, so here I would have to lay the responsibility on my impatience. But that's a whole 'nother story. The next time I make this pie, and believe me, there will be a next time, I would go with an unsweetened dough and I might even throw an egg yolk in there to make this more of a custardy pie (do watch the baking time and temperature if you decide to run with that one). Be sure to use ripe apricots; I leaned toward the less-ripe side because I love the tartness of apricots in that state, but I found that they were a bit too sour to marry well with the flavor of the milk custard.

Apricot Milk Tart
with help from Teri's Kitchen

1 unbaked 10" tart shell (use your favorite recipe)
14 perfectly ripe apricots (wouldn't hurt to have a few more for sampling purposes)
1 1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Fresh nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400°

Wash and gently dry apricots. Cut them in half and remove the pits; arrange the apricots face up in the tart shell.

In a medium bowl wisk together milk, flour, and sugar. Pour mixture over and around apricots to fill the tart shell.

Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce oven to 350° and bake an additional 35 - 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and grate fresh nutmeg over the tart. Tart will appear wet in the center, but will set as it cools. Serve at room temperature.

At its best eaten within a day or two, and completely appropriate for breakfast.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, you captured the memory perfectly. My mouth won't stop watering!!! What a delicious looking pie, and a beautifully written account of wonderful memories. Thank you, Sweetheart.