I don’t know what possessed me. I baked yesterday. In the afternoon. In 92 degree heat. Goes against all my principles of keeping the house cool and staying comfortable when the sun is intent on frying everything crispy. I’m not sure what happened. I had a plan, and it wasn’t baking. As I was pulling all the ingredients together to make the next dish you’ll read about, one of the key components was missing. I was sure that I bought it. I looked in all the drawers and corners of the refrigerator, nope, not there. Drat. I could go to the store, but the would require putting on acceptable clothes to venture out of the house in, hot parking lot directly in the sun, coming out to a hot car with a burning steering wheel. Mostly, I didn’t want to go out. So, on to the next plan. Those apricots I’ve been admiring for a few days. So bright and rosy, so tender and soft, so….crap, I better use these now before they turn to mush! Apricots it was. Now I know it’s close to the end of the season, they’ve been out for a couple of weeks at our farmer’s market, they’ll be there maybe a week more. These were exceptional this year, firm and juicy, not a hint of the mealy, mushiness you can get with apricots. I ate more than I care to admit to just pulling them open, tossing the pit and putting a whole half in my mouth to let the juice and flavor just explode. These apricots were heaven. Apricots and almonds are a natural combination, and I’m a huge fan of anything almond. So an almond cake with apricots. My tried and true recipe for almond cake wasn’t going to have enough density to hold up apricots I thought, and I didn’t want to cut them in pieces. I needed a sturdier cake, one that I could put the apricots on, let them cook into little molten pools of apricot throughout the cake. So before I could think this through, I had the mixer whirring away, the apricots cut and pitted waiting for the batter and the oven heating up. The oven heating up, too late to go back now. Anyway,this worked out beautifully. A not too sweet cake, with tangy apricot studded throughout, perfect with tea (iced or hot) for an afternoon snack. It will also serve you well as an elegant dessert with some amaretto flavored whipped cream, and it will stand in for a breakfast pastry with not a moment’s hesitation. Ya gotta love a torte that can do it all.
So here it is, the torte I baked in 92 degree heat. The torte that sent me to the cooler bedroom while it baked and while it cooled. The torte that made me question my own judgement and break my own rules. After the first bite, it was worth it.
The first thing of note when preparing this torte, I peeled my apricots. You know I don’t like the skin of fruit, especially cooked. That is an option only. Peel or don’t, it’s up to you. ( I used the boiling water method, dunk them in boiling water for about 15 to 20 seconds for these little guys, let cool for a minute, and slip the skin right off.) You should make this in a springform pan, a regular tart pan will not have tall enough sides, and this not a cake pan torte. It’s dense and it’s going to stick to the bottom of springform. Covering the bottom with parchment paper is an option but I’m at a loss as to how to get it off the bottom then. This isn’t a cake that can be turned upside down then right side up again. I ran a knife around the sides, let it cool for a bit, opened the ring and lifted the torte out. I ran a very thin and sharp knife under the out edge to loosen it before I cut it into pieces which seem to help as the edges were crisp and seemed to adhere to the pan more than the rest of the torte. This is also one of those cakes/tortes that gets better the next day. Cool completely and cover tightly.
Amaretto & Apricot Torte
adapted and inspired by Orangette’s Almond Torte with Sugared Apricots
1/2 cup finely ground blanched almonds or almond flour
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. of salt
1 stick (8 tbls.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tbls. of Amaretto liqueur
1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract
6 – 9 ripe apricots, halved, pitted, and peeled (if you choose)
1-2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the butter and sugar, adding the honey, and then the eggs one at a time. Mix together the ground almonds, flour, baking soda, salt, then add to the butter sugar mixture in thirds. Mix only enough to incorporate the flour, you don’t want to mix it too long. Finally, add the amaretto and vanilla, mixing to incorporate those into the batter. The batter will be fairly stiff.
The original directions call for not buttering the pan at all, but I buttered the bottom in the hopes that it would stick less. Honestly I’m not sure it did, but the middle didn’t stick at all, so I only had to deal with the outside edge sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Spread the batter evenly over the bottom of the pan, then gently sit the apricots in a circular pattern around the batter. Only lightly press, it would be good if the batter didn’t cover them as it baked. It covered mine, but I think I pushed mine in too deep. It will still taste great either way.
Sprinkle sugar over the tops of the apricots and across the batter.
Bake on the center rack for 40 to 50 minutes, checking at 35. A toothpick inserted in the middle should pull out clean.