(photo by Mark Luinenburg from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day)
In Minnesota for the past week it has been a little too gray for my taste. The one consolation to all the cold and snow we get around here, are the endless clear blue skies. They are rather remarkable and make the winters tolerable. When they refuse to show themselves through the clouds I go cold. This means I need a little something to brighten up my day. Something sweet! Something easy and quick. Sunny-Side-Up Apricot Pastry (p. 225) will do the trick. A combination of buttery brioche, luscious vanilla pastry cream and tangy sweet apricots.
If you have a batch of Brioche dough at the ready then these treats go together in a short time. Perhaps more than 5 minutes but some indulgences are worth the few extra minutes.
One other thing drives me crazy about January, the lack of fresh fruit. Not that Chile isn’t willing to produce and ship anything your heart desires, but it just isn’t the same as fresh fruit from the farmers market or the pick-it-yourself farm. But this is a craving and one that I can’t wait until summer to satisfy. So I admit I went to Lund’s and bought a can of Apricots and went on my merry way toward happiness.
…and don’t forget to use a vanilla bean in the pastry cream. If you’ve never used one before click here  and I’ll show you how!
Pastry Cream (p. 225):
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 vanilla bean  or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 pounds (cantaloupe-size portion) Brioche dough (p.189) dough that you have mixed up and refrigerated.
1 cup pastry cream (above)
8 ripe apricots, halved (fresh in season or canned in the dead cold of January!)
1/2 cup apricot jam, melted
2 cups sugar
For the pastry cream:
Bring the milk, 1/4 cup of the sugar, butter, salt and vanilla bean* to a gentle boil in a medium saucepan.
Remove from heat.
Whisk together the cornstarch and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Add the egg and yolks to the cornstarch and mix into a smooth paste.
Slowly, and in small amounts, whisk a little of the hot milk into a the egg mixture. This is called tempering the eggs, which you need to do to get them to the same temperature of the hot milk in the pan, so they won’t curdle.
Once the egg mixture is warm to the touch, pour it back into the milk in the pan.
Return the custard to the stove and bring to a boil, whisking continuously for 2 to 3 minutes. The pastry cream will thicken almost immediately but it is important to cook out the starch so that it isn’t grainy and so your pastry cream won’t separate. (separating pastry cream is when the liquid releases from the cream, easily prevented by cooking for 2-3 minutes!) When the pastry cream is done it will be smooth and glossy.
Strain the pastry cream into a shallow container.
Because the pastry cream is so think you will need to press it through the strainer with a rubber spatula.
Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Set the container in the freezer for 15 minutes (this cools down the eggs quickly) and then refrigerate for up to a few days.
To assemble the pastries:
Line a cookie sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.
Dust the surface of the cantaloupe-size piece of refrigerated Brioche dough with flour and quickly shape it into a rough ball shape.
Roll the dough to about 1/8″ thick rectangle, no thinner or it won’t rise enough. Adding flour on the dough and pin to prevent from sticking.
Cut out 4-inch circles, using a round cookie or biscuit cutter. You can make 1 or a dozen pastries and just put the left over dough back in the bucket.
Make a flat mound of sugar on the work surface.
Using the rolling pin, roll back and forth over the center, stopping 1/2 inch from either end to create an oval. If the dough sticks to the pin sprinkle with a bit of flour. Lay the oval, sugar side up on the prepared cookie sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough circles.
Place 2 tablespoons of the pastry cream in the center of the sugared oval. Place 1 or 2 apricots on the pastry cream so they resemble a sunny-side-up egg.
Rest the pastry for 30 to 40 minutes (this is slightly less time than we say in the book, but I’ve found this to be more than adequate. Always looking for the faster way to have pastries!)
Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat oven to 350 degrees (this is different than what we say in the book, which is a mistake and should be changed.)
Bake the pastries in the center of the oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown and sugar is caramelized. If you are baking two trays at once make sure to rotate the trays top to bottom so that they bake evenly and the bottoms don’t over bake.
As soon as the pastries come out of the oven, brush the apricot jam over the apricots to give them a nice shine.
Serve warm or cooled.