Yeah, I could rhapsodize. But if I’m sharing how I really feel about apricot season, I’ll tell you straight out that I think it’s kind of a pain in the ass.
It’s not just apricots. It’s fresh figs and rhubarb and any other fruit or vegetable whose growing season doesn’t correspond with the recipe assignments I happen to have on deck. As a professional recipe developer, I’m used to tracking down out-of-season fruit and making do with sweetness and flavor that’s not exactly what you’d get at the peak of ripeness, but which is serviceable enough to come through when refining a dish.
It’s part of my job to deal with this logistical issue, and it’s part and parcel of living here in New Jersey instead of in the great fruit basket of California. And it’s true that I get peaches, blueberries, corn, and tomatoes all summer long, so what the heck am I complaining about? Because to paraphrase that old nursery rhyme, when an apricot is good, it’s very, very good, and when it’s not in season, it’s not really worth eating.
The other great irony about apricot season is that it comes at a time when I really don’t want to be cooking too much and heating up my kitchen if I can help it, but I honestly do prefer cooked apricots to raw ones. Luckily, you don’t have to give apricots a low, slow braise to get the most out of them—a few minutes over a stove burner is enough to let the tartness come to the forefront. (The biscuits below are another matter, but I just suffer through for the eventual reward.)
In each of my cookbooks, I’ve included a recipe that incorporates apricots, and in each one, I play up that sweet-tart flavor that I love so much. This particular shortcake is inspired by the apricot-rosemary jam that I stuffed into pierogies for Pierogi Love, but in this case, the woodsy herbs make their way into sweet cornmeal biscuits instead of into the apricot filling itself. And thanks to Tara Desmond’s incredible book Choosing Sides, a simple biscuit folding technique guarantees you’ll get the herbs dispersed in every flaky layer.
I’ll never turn down a pint of strawberries—whether or not I’m eating them straight from the basket or turning them into sundae sauce—but sometimes it’s fun to mix it up a little. So when I want to stop and truly take a moment to revel in the food I’m creating, I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for in-season apricots and let the Halloween recipes (yes, already!) rest on the back burner for a little while.
Apricot Rosemary Shortcakes
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Makes about 6 servings (2 biscuits per serving)
- 1 pound apricots, pitted and quartered
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon Grand Mariner (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups (6 3/8 ounces; 180 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces; 57 grams) cake flour
- 1/4 cup (1 1/2 ounces) cornmeal
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh lavender
- 1 teaspoon heavy cream
- turbinado sugar for sprinkling
- 1/2 cup very cold heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Make the apricots:
Stir the apricots, water, honey, sugar, and Grand Marnier together in a medium (2-quart) saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the apricots are very soft, about 10 minutes. Check frequently as the apricots start to soften, as the very sweet sauce will burn if left unattended.
Transfer to a bowl and cool completely before serving. Apricots can be made up to 3 days in advance; refrigerate and bring to room temperature before serving.
Make the biscuits:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
Whisk both flours with the cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
Add the butter and cut it into the flour mixture with a pastry blender until it starts to break down into small flour-covered pea-sized bits. If you don’t have a pastry blender, you can also do this with your fingers by rubbing the butter cubes into the flour as if you were snapping the ingredients between your fingers and thumb. The butter will soften more quickly this way, so your biscuits might not be as flaky, but it still works.
Stir the buttermilk into the flour mixture just until a soft and shaggy dough forms.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently pat into a rough 6-by-9-inch rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle the top of the dough with 1/4 of the rosemary and lavender, pressing lightly to help the herbs adhere.
Gently lift one of the 6-inch sides of the rectangle—using a dough scraper if necessary to help it along—and fold the dough over once on itself to “sandwich” the herbs within the dough. Press down, gently, gently, gently, always gently, and repeat twice more, adding 1/4 of the herbs, turning and pressing.
When you are down to your last 1/4 of herbs, press the dough back out into a 6-by-9-inch rectangle. Use the dough scraper or a sharp knife to cut the dough into 12 biscuits.
Transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking sheet. Brush each biscuit with heavy cream, then sprinkle with the remaining herbs and the turbinado sugar.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the biscuits are beautifully browned. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
Make the whipped cream:
Pour the cream into a nonreactive (stainless steel or glass) bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment if you have one, for 1-2 minutes on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and continue to beat until the cream is thickly whipped.
Do I really need to tell you how to do this? Slice a biscuit in half, scoop some apricots and whipped cream over the bottom of the biscuit, then place the top of the biscuit on the whipped cream like a jaunty hat. Eat with pleasure.