Alison Roman's upside-down apricot tart

Photo: Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott (courtesy Hardie Grant Books)

Alison Roman may not be joining us in Melbourne this March, due to the postponement of MFWF, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be here in spirit. Spend some of your newly acquired downtime baking Alison’s recipe for a tart where stone fruit is the glossy star of the show. Plums or even nectarines will also work well, if apricots aren’t in season.

“Puff pastry is one of those store-bought ingredients that makes you look like a better baker than you are. There are varying degrees of quality among the brands to be found in grocery stores, but honestly most do their job of puffing up to a tall, crisp pastry. While I do love the idea of making my own, I’m uh … never gonna do that. But what I will do is open a packet, remove the dough, flatten it out on a counter, place it atop some caramelised fruit, and bake it until it gets all puffed, golden and shatteringly crisp.

“Sure, you could also use apples here, but they never really achieve what an apricot can do, which is give you something that is perfectly jammy, joyfully acidic and fantastically saucy, all at once. Plus, no pre-bake required.

“For those paying attention, yes, you could call this a tarte tatin, but I’m calling it an upside-down apricot tart because to me, tarte tatin is a specific thing made with apples. Since this isn’t that, I rebranded out of respect.

“Anyway, this is the perfect dessert for those who can bake and those who can’t, since regardless of what goes on top, the combination of apricots + butter + sugar + flaky pastry in any preparation is not bad – in fact, it is very good.

“(Note: It can also be made with plums! That’s cool, right?)”

Serves 6–8

Ingredients

90 gm (¼ cup) honey
55 gm (¼ cup) sugar
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Flaky sea salt
450 gm fresh apricots or plums (about 6 apricots or 4 plums), halved lengthways and pitted
1 sheet frozen puff pastry
Plain (all-purpose) flour, for dusting
30 g (¼ cup) pistachio nuts, very finely chopped (optional)
Ice-cream or whipped cream, to serve (optional)

Method

1 Preheat the oven to 215°C.
2 Heat the honey, sugar and water in a small pot over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture turns from a pale golden-brown, watery syrup to a dark amber caramel. (You’re making a caramel, but because of the honey, it can be hard to tell when the colour changes; but think the colour of good-quality maple syrup.)
3 Remove from the heat. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, add the butter, vinegar and a pinch of flaky salt, letting the mixture bubble up, stirring and swirling to incorporate. Pour this now-opaque caramel into a 23-25 cm (9-10 inch) round cake tin, tart (flan) tin or ovenproof skillet (the possibilities are endless!), swirling to make sure it evenly coats the bottom.
4 Lay the apricots (or other fruit) in the pan, cut side down, letting them overlap slightly if needed. If you seem to have too many apricots to fit in your pan, enjoy the rest as a snack.
5 Take the puff pastry out of the packet and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Depending on the brand, it’ll likely be a rectangle or a square, so lightly roll the edges to a circle-ish shape and smooth any obvious creases, so that the pastry will bake evenly. Using scissors or a knife, trim the pastry so it’s about 2.5 cm (1 inch) larger than the circumference of the pan; it doesn’t have to be a perfect circle. Place the pastry on top of the apricots, letting it slump up the sides but not hang over (the pastry will shrink as it bakes, so you need a bit of excess dough to compensate).
6 Bake until the pastry is puffed and starting to turn a light golden brown (the colour of shortbread), 15–20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 190°C and continue to bake until the pastry looks more like a well-baked croissant, and the fruit below is bubbling furiously and deliciously, another 25–30 minutes.
7 Remove from the oven and let the tart rest for 10–15 minutes, just to cool the caramel a bit. To invert the tart, place a plate (one at least as large as the pan, but preferably a little larger) on top of the pastry. Protecting your hands with tea towels or oven mitts, flip the tart over so that the bottom is now the top. Lift up the pan, leaving the delicious fruit and crust, and tangy sauce to drip all over everything.
8 Serve with chopped pistachio nuts and more flaky salt sprinkled over, or with ice-cream or whipped cream on the side, or with literally nothing at all, because it is truly perfect as is.

Do Ahead

You can bake this tart a few hours ahead, but do not invert it until you’re ready to serve. If the caramel has set too firmly to release from the pan, pop it in a 190°C oven for 5 minutes or so to loosen it up.

This is an edited extract from Nothing Fancy by Alison Roman published by Hardie Grant Books ($45). Available where all good books are sold.