It’s officially SPRING everyone 😀
There’s things to love and not love so much about every season of course – for example allergies…but so worth it for the FLOWERS! I never had seasonal allergies as a kid, but for some reason once I moved to New York I got the whole deal – sniffles, itchy eyes, even hives. Still, I can’t stay away. Once the weather gets warmer, I will probably spend as much time as possible wandering Central Park and soaking up the flora.
My favorite flower has always been sunflowers, but yellow roses come in a close second. Yellow roses hold a special place in my heart as one of the official symbols of my sorority, Sigma Psi Zeta. If someone had ever told the high school me that I would soon join a sorority, especially an Asian-interest sorority, I would have laughed them out of town. Today, I am so thankful that six years ago my search for free food led me to the SYZ interest meeting, where I first met the inspirational community that would teach me the meaning of true friendship. It seems fitting that in the language of flowers, yellow roses symbolize friendship.
I got the idea for these apricot tarts as my contribution to a brunch this weekend with a bunch of sisters, both undergrads and alums. Apple tarts shaped like roses are pretty popular on Pinterest/the blogosphere, so it got me thinking what other fruit could be used. Dried apricots work perfectly as radiant golden rose petals in a nest of decadent custard and buttery, flaky pastry. Actually, it’s the same tart shell recipe that my mom uses for her egg tarts – yay for multipurpose!
A quick ode to pastry cream custard: pastry cream isn’t exactly foolproof so make sure to read the instructions through BEFORE starting, but it’s actually quite easy once you understand what to do – and oh so worth the little extra attention to detail! Rich, smooth, creamy vanilla custard that works beautifully as a filling for cakes, tarts, cream puffs…but honestly, it takes all of my willpower to not just eat the stuff straight with a spoon 😛 I have tried to make vegan pastry cream before and miserably failed – the consistency was okay, but the taste was completely off without eggs or dairy. So sorry to any of my vegan readers! But feel free to try a vegan pastry cream recipe from another source, or substitute completely with another naturally vegan filling – maybe some apricot preserves? or vegan vanilla pudding?
These golden roses may have disappeared in a flash at brunch, but true friendship lasts forever 🙂 Here’s to celebrating the season of new beginnings with the best of old friends!
Apricot Rose Tarts
makes around 24 tarts
vegan options available
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened – or vegan butter
- 3 oz cream cheese (I used reduced fat) – or vegan cream cheese (I have used Tofutti brand before with good results)
- *if using vegan substitutions, optionally add a teaspoon of butter extract or emulsion
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
pastry cream custard – adapted from Joanne Chang, my baking idol
(or substitute pastry cream with jam, vegan pudding, etc. if vegan)
- 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon dairy milk of choice – I used whole milk since it was on hand
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour + pinch of cornstarch, or 1 tablespoon cake flour
- pinch of salt
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 container (15-16 oz by weight or around 2 3/4 cups by volume) dried apricots
- First, make the pastry cream: heat the milk in a small saucepan on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until just scalded – meaning, it’s not boiling but bubbles are forming just at the edges of the saucepan – then take off heat, but keep the stove on.
- While the milk is heating, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the egg yolk and whisk to incorporate into a uniform paste.
- Important – do NOT add all the hot milk to the egg-flour mixture all at once, otherwise you’ll end up with scrambled eggs. Instead add a tablespoon of hot milk, then whisk, then another tablespoon, whisk, then again until about a third has been added (this is called tempering – you’re getting the eggs used to the temperature of the milk). Then you can add the rest of the milk, whisking constantly and vigorously. From this point on, DON’T STOP WHISKING!
- Pour the whole egg-flour-milk mixture back into the saucepan over medium heat. DON’T STOP WHISKING! At first, the mixture will look thin and frothy, but in a few minutes it’ll start thickening. Once you feel it start thickening, stop whisking for just a few seconds every once in a while to check if the mixture has started to boil – or as I like to call it, “blurp”-ing. What you’re looking for is if the mixture is forming big bubbles that “blurp” – it doesn’t look exactly like boiling in the hot water sense. Once you see that “blurp”, whisk madly for another 10 seconds then take off heat.
- If your pastry cream seems a little grainy, or if you just want to be extra careful, pour the pastry cream through a strainer into a heatproof bowl – this is in case something went wrong with the whisking and some of the egg got scrambled. But if your pastry cream already seems quite smooth, feel free to just pour it straight into the bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract.
- Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap so that the plastic wrap is actually touching the surface of the pastry cream, to prevent it drying out and a skin forming. Chill for at least 4 hours, or until the custard has set. Pastry cream can be stored in the fridge in this fashion for at least 3 days.
- Next, make the tart shells: preheat the oven to 375 F. Lightly grease your tart shell molds (these look similar to the ones I used, or a mini cupcake pan can be used as well) and place on a baking pan for easy transportation.
- Mix well the softened butter and cream cheese together, then add the flour to form a ball of dough. If too sticky, add more flour; it is fine to be slightly tacky though.
- Tear off a golf-ball-sized piece of dough. On a lightly floured or oiled surface, roll out the dough into a circle slightly larger than the size of your tart shell molds. Don’t be afraid to roll it out pretty thin, about 1/8th or even 1/16th inch. Press into a tart mold and use its sharp edges to perfectly trim the rolled dough to fit. Repeat until all the tart molds have been filled. Use a fork to prick the bottom of each tart mold to avoid excessive air bubbles.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned. When cool enough to handle, you should be able to tip the baked tart shells right out of their molds; if they’re a little stuck, use a toothpick to loosen them. Repeat with any remaining dough until all dough is used up and all tart shells are baked.
- Finally, assemble the tarts: while the tart shells are baking, you can make full use of your time by preparing the dried apricots. Use a paring knife to slice all the dried apricots in half. Try not to snack on too many of them – I pretty much used up the entire container for this full recipe (minus a couple that “accidentally” ripped and had to be eaten)! 😛
- Spoon roughly a heaping teaspoon of chilled set pastry cream into a cooled tart shell, smoothing it down using the back of your spoon. Take three larger-sized dried apricot halves and set in the pastry cream around the edge of the tart. Then set three more larger or medium-sized dried apricot halves on the inside of the first three, overlapping in a pinwheel fashion. Lastly, take one medium or smaller-sized dried apricot half, roll into a cylinder, and set in the center. For a visual reference, refer back to the third photo in this post. Repeat this assembly process until all tarts are completed! Store in an airtight container in the fridge – as mentioned before, the pastry cream will stay fresh for at least 3 days if not longer.
Nutritional description: these little tarts are a perfect bite-sized snack or dessert. They’re not super low in fat or sugar, but they’re not that high either – plus it’s mostly natural sugar in the form of dried apricots, which also provide a dose of fiber to temper that sugar rush and crash. Apricots are also a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.
Nutritional information (calculated without vegan substitutions): Calories 107, Total Fat 4.1g, Saturated Fat 2.6g, Cholesterol 18.5mg, Carbs 15.7g, Fiber 1.5g, Sugars 10.9g, Protein 1.3g, Sodium 24.1mg