Fresh apricots are available now, and as they need a warm climate to thrive, most of the apricots on sale in Britain during the summer come from European countries revelling in hot climates. They are cultivated in many areas worldwide from Asia to Australia, North Africa to the USA. Many of these are sold dried.
Apricots are related to peaches, nectarines, plums and cherries and can be substituted for them in many recipes. Their colour ranges from a pale yellow to a deep orange and, when they are ripe, the kernel falls out easily when the fruit is cut in half. The flesh is fragrant and the skin is velvety soft.
Dried apricots are used widely in baking, but fresh apricots lend themselves to baking as well. To check if they are ripe, feel the flesh, which should be moderately firm and free of blemishes or wrinkles.
Use them in crumbles and tarts; they are very good as a substitute to pears in a Bordaloue tart or used instead of apples in a tarte Normande. Both of these traditonal dishes can be served with vanilla ice cream to bring out the taste of the fruit.
Apricots will also work well in pastries and, mixed with cream, as a filling in choux buns. They don’t give off a lot of juice when they are cooked, so small amounts can be added to muffin mixtures, cakes and tray bakes.
In Season: June-September
By Fiona Burrell, co-author of Leith’s Baking Bible, from the world-famous Leiths School of Food and Wine