A taste of childhood – tartelettes aux abricots
Anyone who grew up in France in the 90’s or noughties, or whose children did, is likely to remember these little tartlets. Children the world over seem to leave school in the afternoon absolutely ravenous, even if they haven’t enjoyed a four course lunch such as the school system in France offers. It was quite a shock when we first arrived in France with children aged 3 and 6, to read the school menu for the week.
Every day the school lunch started with an entrée (in the true French sense of the word, an appetiser or starter, rather than the American term for a main course dish). It might be a salade piémontaise – potatoes, tomatoes, eggs and ham in a mayonnaise dressing, some slices of saucisson or the ubiquitous carottes râpées (for which I blame my youngest’s distrust of any orange foodstuffs, even though he would have you believe it was my less than stellar attempt at a pumpkin risotto chez nous). Next would follow a main course such as roast pork with coquillette pasta, or fish in breadcrumbs with carrots, then a simple cheese or plain yogurt and finally a fruit.
Of course the reality of any food produced centrally and served hours later at outlying destinations is that it is invariably disappointing, however well the menu reads. Nonetheless, hats off – ‘chapeau!’ – to the schools for trying to produce well-balanced, interesting and nutritional meals with more than a whiff of tradition about them.
Back to school leaving time then, the sortie de l’école, when parents would arrive with a range of tempting snacks or goûters for their children. This might be piece of baguette with a square of chocolate pushed inside, a petit pain viennoise, or for the maman completely on the hoof who had come directly from the supermarché, a packet of Bien Vu tartelettes aux abricots.
I found a recipe for these at the excellent French blog La Super Superette, where they have been renamed les bien-goûtues and set about to convert them to gluten free for my son who was coming home from university for Easter. They were great fun to make – now, without two young children in tow. Even my son thought they were super cute and overcame his irrational fear of orange for a sufficient amount of time to empty the tin, once I’d reassured him, of course, that no pumpkins had been harmed in their making.
- 180g my flour flour blend
- 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
- 40g sugar
- 15g desiccated coconut
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 90g unsalted butter
- 1 medium egg
- 1-2 tablespoon milk
- 200ml apricot juice or nectar (containing about 50% apricot)
- 150g sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1g agar-agar powder
- Mix together the flour, xanthan gum, sugar, coconut and salt.
- Add the cold butter and rub in until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
- add the egg and 1 tbsp milk and mix to a dough. Add the remaining tbsp of milk if needed.
- Form into a disc then roll out between 2 sheets of baking parchment to approx 5mm thickness.
- Chill the rolled out dough before cutting out the tartlets.
- Cut the tartlets out using a small 5cm fluted cutter.
- Use a small glass (or even your thumb) to push a slight depression in the centre of the tartlet. Place on a parchment-covered baking sheet and prick the depressed base several times with a fork. Chill well for at least 2 hours (or overnight).
- When you are ready to bake the tartlets, preheat the oven to 180C (fan 160C) and prepare the filling.
- Heat the apricot juice,sugar and lemon juice together in a small pan. When boiling, reduce the heat and allow to bubble gently for 20 mins. Then whisk in the agar agar, and allow to bubble gently for a further 5 mins. Allow to cool for 5 mins at least before using.
- Meanwhile bake the tartlets for 10-12 mins or until slightly golden. Allow to cool before filling.
- Fill the centre of each tartlet carefully with the apricot mixture, being careful it does not overflow the edge of the depression. Allow to sit for 5 mins then add a little more filling if desired.
- Allow to set in the fridge for an hour before serving.
- You could also use an apricot jam, sieved and then heated with a little water until it makes a thick glaze, for the filling.