It’s probably no surprise that a lot of my recipe ideas come from travel. Unusual ingredients that I’ve tasted, signature dishes that I’ve tried and local recipes that I’ve acquired all influence my cooking. Although I gravitate to far flung locations, I do find inspiration closer to home. A perfect example is this spring’s obsession with puff pastry and stone fruit.
A few Saturdays ago I went to Philadelphia to meet up with an old friend. Since I’d done something extraordinary and actually arrived early, I popped into a little bakery selling pastries and a small assortment of breads. What better place to kill time than in a food shop? While the almond croissants and pain au raisins looked lovely, what caught my eye were the “apricot boats,” glistening ovals of puff pastry topped with halved apricots and pearl sugar. So simple. So elegant. Why didn’t I ever think of doing that?
Anything that easy and enticing I had to make. First, though, I should have a taste. So, with a box of apricot boats in hand I set off to catch up with my friend and sample this sweet. Our verdict? It was about as uncomplicated and delicious as a pastry could get.
On the ride home I mulled over apricot boats. I had puff pastry in the freezer and pearl sugar in my pantry. All that I needed was six ripe apricots and I could replicate this treat.
Because I couldn’t find fresh apricots at my local markets, I cheated and used canned halved peaches instead. As I discovered, any stone fruit, fresh or canned, works in this recipe. Just grab some puff pastry and some peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines or even cherries and start baking.
Makes 12 to 16 pastries
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Flour, for dusting the work surface
2 sheets puff pastry, defrosted
12 to 16 peach halves, canned or fresh
Pearl sugar, optional, for decorating
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place the water and sugar in a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat until all the sugar has dissolved. (Note that, if you are using fresh peaches, you will want to add the peach halves to the saucepan and allow them to simmer in the simple syrup until softened, 2 to 4 minutes, spooning the syrup over the halves as they cook.) Remove the pan of simple syrup from the heat and set aside.
Dust a clean work surface with flour. Place one sheet of puff pastry on the work surface and, using a flour-dusted rolling pin, roll out the pastry until it’s approximately 11″ x 15″ in size.
Using a 3-inch scalloped, round or oval biscuit cutter, cut out 6 to 8 puffs. Place each on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Roll out the other sheet of puff pastry and cut out 6 to 8 more puffs, putting them on the other sheet. Place the pastries in the oven and bake for 5 minutes, until they’ve started to rise. Remove the puffs from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
While the puffs are cooling, drain off the liquid from the peaches and set the peach halves aside. Note that, if you’ve simmered fresh peaches in simple syrup, reserve the syrup. If using canned peaches, you can discard the canning juices.
Using a pastry or basting brush, brush the partially baked puffs with simple syrup. Place a peach half in the center of each puff and generously coat the fruit with simple syrup. If using pearl sugar, sprinkle it on the edges of the pastry. Return the baking sheets to the oven and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until the pastries have turned golden in color. Remove the peach puffs from the oven and cool completely before serving.