Qamar al deen (apricot leather) is a common ingredient found in most Middle Eastern kitchens. My mother-in-law’s Syrian kitchen is stocked with stack upon stack of it; her favorite way to use it is to make thick, smoothie-like drinks (especially during Ramadan), but she also loves eating it as is (like candy!) or making it into pudding.
I bought this apricot leather at a Middle Eastern grocery store on our recent trip to NYC (I had already used up all the loot I brought home from our Middle East vacation…love this stuff!), but I’ve also seen it at a couple different Middle Eastern groceries in my area. If you can’t find it where you live, you can probably order it online or use dried apricots instead. Fresh apricots may work also if you feel like experimenting, just be sure to significantly reduce the amount of water (or perhaps omit it altogether) you use if you decide to go this route.
I wanted to make an apricot tart using qamar al deen and I decided to infuse it with herbs to make it a bit more special. I used my sugar-cookie-like tart crust (that I used to make a cherry custard tart last summer), and walnuts added the perfect nutty crunch to the crumble topping. In the end it turned out to be reminiscent of a peach cobbler.
If there is extra apricot filling, pour it into individual serving bowls and refrigerate until completely chilled. It makes a fantastic pudding/treat for the cook.
Wishing everyone a Generous Ramadan (Ramadan Kareem)!
Herbed Apricot Tart
Yields 1 (11-inch) tart
½ lb (about 250 g) dried apricot paste (qamer al deen), cut into pieces
2 cups water
¼ cup sugar
1 large sprig basil
1 large sprig mint, plus 2 tablespoons fresh minced mint
1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water
1 large egg
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch fresh grated nutmeg
1 ½ sticks (6 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Walnut Crumb Topping:
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch fresh grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup chopped walnuts
For the filling: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, sugar, basil, and mint and bring up to a boil; turn heat off, then cover the pot and steep herbs 2 minutes. Remove the basil and mint with tongs, and pour the syrup over the apricot paste in a medium bowl; let it sit until cool (about 1 hour), giving it an occasional stir. Transfer to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Whisk together the apricot liquid, cornstarch slurry, and egg in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, then boil 3 minutes, whisking constantly. Turn heat off and stir in the fresh minced mint.
For the crust: Preheat oven to 350F. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking powder. Use a fork to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it looks crumbly and there are some pieces the size of peas (it should be able to come together to form a ball when you press it). Pour the crust mixture into an 11-inch tart pan and press it along the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Use a fork to make several pricks in the bottom of the crust, then bake for 20 minutes. (If the crust puffs up too much while baking, just give it a few more pricks with a fork.)
For the walnut crumb topping: In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Use a fork to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it looks crumbly and there are some pieces the size of peas. Stir in the walnuts.
Putting it together: Pour the apricot filling into the pre-baked tart shell (if there is extra filling, pour it into individual ramekins, cool to room temperature, and then chill to serve). Sprinkle the walnut crumb topping evenly on top, place the tart pan on a larger baking pan (just for precaution, in case anything bubbles over), and bake at 350F until the tart is bubbling and the topping is starting to turn golden (about 30 minutes).
Extra Filling = The Cook’s Delight ;)