I went to the market last week looking for organic apricots and found them. Sort of. What ended up in my shopping basket were apriums, a mix of apricot and plum that are harvested in early summer.
There was a moment when I realized there weren’t any tried-and-true organic apricots. A moment when I sighed a little inside and thought, it’s things like this that perpetuate the myth of organic food as elitist food (see Mark Bittman’s rebuttal of this claim here). Can’t we dispense with designer fruits and their unfamiliar, hybridized names? Can’t we just be happy growing and eating the regular varieties of fruits and vegetables without trying to find the next hot addition to swanky restaurant menus?
I bought them anyway. When I got home, I looked it up and found that an aprium is about 70% apricot and 30% plum. And its name is patented by Zaiger’s Genetics. Another moment – the company name screams GMO. But it turns out the company, founded decades ago by Floyd Zaiger, is a leading innovator in new varieties of fruit, hand-pollinating thousands of crosses every year (they actually don’t use genetic modification at all) and is, as this article puts it, “the most prolific fruit breeder in the world.”
To bring it down to consumer level, Zaiger’s company is the sole reason you see so many white-fleshed peaches and nectarines on the shelves, and buy more of them, too. And the reason for the existence of the pluot, a fact which gave me pause Another moment. Because in this house we have a love affair with the Dapple Dandy pluot. Hm. Without the creator of the aprium, there would be no Dapple Dandies.
True to the other varieties I read about, and to our Dapple Dandy fetish, the aprium actually isn’t a snobby version of an apricot but an improved version (if you ask me). It has a distinctive apricot flavor without the mealy texture that so often gets in the way of a really great bite. And it helps that it has a sunset-over-the-Pacific blush.
In place of strawberries, I macerated half a dozen apriums with a modest amount of maple sugar and served them over this shortcake with whipping cream on top. Just after I made it, my nuclear and extended family converged at the house and it was the perfect way to gather in the kitchen, people balancing plates and nibbling in the late afternoon.
6 apriums (apricots will do), diced
scant 1/3 cup + 2 T maple sugar, fine granulated sugar or powdered sugar
1 1/2 c white whole wheat flour*
1/4 c brown rice flour*
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 T cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 c heavy cream, chilled
1 tsp vanilla extract
granulated cane sugar
*I read that the cake flour in the original recipe is the
secret to this shortcake recipe so if you have it, by all
means use it. The above is what I had on hand on a busy
Saturday morning and worked just fine.
Preheat the oven to 425°. Butter an 8-by-1 1/2-inch cake pan.
Place chopped apriums in a large bowl, sprinkle with maple sugar
and toss well. Set aside to macerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Sift the flours, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl.
Using a pastry blender cut the butter until thoroughly incorporated.
Stir in 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Pour 2/3 cup of the heavy cream
over the flour mixture and stir with a blunt knife just until the dough
Lightly gather the dough into a ball and pat into a disk. It will
be dry enough that you’ll lose pieces off the edges. No matter.
Just pat them back in. Set the disk in the prepared cake pan and
pat it evenly over the bottom.
Brush the surface of the dough with 1 tablespoon of the cream and
sprinkle with 1/2 tablespoon of the sugar. Bake in the middle of
the oven for 20 minutes, or until the top is golden and feels firm
when pressed lightly in the center. Invert the shortcake onto a rack,
turn it right-side up and let cool for 30 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the remaining 1 1/3 cups cream with the
vanilla and the remaining 1 tablespoon maple sugar. Beat the cream
until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes.
Serve simply, a wedge of shortcake topped with the apriums
and a dollop of whipping cream.