Gracious, I do love a good dinner party. Last weekend, we went to such a gathering back in our old neighborhood, visiting with friends we hadn’t seen in a while. I love these two, because they know we’re an enthusiastic audience for the results of their occasional inclination to take on very lengthy cooking projects. In the past, we’ve enjoyed such creations as an authentic low country boil, and the main event on this evening was duck confit. And, wow, was it delicious. I’m putting it on my list of projects, but wonder when I’ll find the time – or an audience as duck-loving as myself – to make it happen. If you’d like to volunteer, let me know.
Back to this dinner party, though: we were in charge of dessert. The decadence of the main course required that I come up with something that could balance that savory richness, and be light enough that people would still want to eat it. Chocolate mousse, out. Creme brulee, out. Cake, pretty much out. Even my latest easy pie, made with jam and a cookie-like crust, out.
And I was figuring this all out on the morning of the party. I’d not really left myself a lot of time.
But my latest pie features blackberry jam, and (blackberries + duck = happy). So, I had a starting place (and blackberries in the fridge.) An hour or two later, plus labyrinthine searches of my favorite web sites and food blogs, and I had found the inspiration for this ditty. From Martha Stewart, the original called for walnuts, but I don’t love walnuts and didn’t want to go to the market again, so I used almonds. It also uses frozen puff pastry as its base, which meant that it could be thrown together in the time I had. Puff pastry is magic – you can do just about anything with it, in not much more time than it takes to thaw the stuff.
Anyway, a few other tweaks, and the result was more than I’d hoped for – a flaky, not-too-sweet base, topped with tender, juicy fruit, all accented with a slight nuttiness. We served it with creme fraiche, but people decided it was better eaten like a slice of pizza than off a plate with fork and knife. I’d take that as affirmation of the dessert’s tastiness, but it probably speaks more for the success of the dinner party itself. Six adults sitting around eating dessert like pizza at midnight is a sign of a good time having been had.
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (one 14 ounce package), thawed
Flour, for surface
3/4 cup ground almonds, toasted
3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 large egg, beaten for egg wash
4 apricots, pitted and each cut into 8 wedges
12 ounces fresh blackberries (about 2 to 3 cups)
1/4 cup granulated or demerara sugar
Preheat oven to 425-degrees F. Roll out pastry to a 13-by-15-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface; trim edges with a knife. Transfer to a baking sheet; freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Combine almonds, brown sugar, cornstarch, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Brush pastry with egg wash, avoiding edges so that egg doesn’t drip over sides. Score a line around edge of pastry using a knife to create a 3/4-inch border (being careful not to cut all the way through). Spread the almond mixture over the center. Arrange apricots and blackberries on top. Sprinkle with granulated or demerara sugar.
Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake until pastry is golden brown and fruit is soft, about 30 minutes more. Let cool.