Aprium shortcake

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.

Aprium Shortcake
adapted from Diana Sturgis‘ recipe in Food & Wine

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
sticks together.

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.

27 thoughts on “Aprium shortcake

  1. This looks like summer on a plate. I’m a sucker for fruit desserts and this one sounds and looks positively scrumptious. Our apricot season is starting very soon. You can bet I’ll be making this when it does.

  2. I love the whole wheat shortbread, I bet that flavor is great here. I learned to appreciate old-fashioned cross-pollinated fruit varieties through my fruit CSA, Tonnemakers (from E Wa, not sure if they deliver to your area but I HIGHLY recommend them if they do!). I never knew that so many varieties of each fruit existed, and some of the previously-unknown ones were the absolute best! So now I always taste “new” (to me!) fruits. :)

    • I looked up Tonnemakers, Emmy. They look amazing! Unfortunately they don’t deliver to the Olympia area but I’m so glad to know about them. I’d love it if you’d drop me a line when you try something new. After writing this post I’m feeling like a bit of a new fruit junkie.

    • Thank you, Woesha! Yes, do look for them. And choose the slightly firmer ones. I discovered that they have a better texture and these went soft within days in my fridge.

  3. Wonderful Jennifer! This looks just beautiful and I have to fess to being a HUGE fan of the white nectarines in particular. I can imagine the texture of the (sometimes too mushy and dry) texture of the apricot benefits greatly from the plum elements in there. I love shortcake – gorgeous photos!

    • Hi, Shira! Funny, I thought I didn’t like white nectarines but I bought some the other day and they were wonderful. Now I’m so curious about what other fruit hybrids will be coming down the pike. By the way, the apriums go soft quickly so best to eat them right away if you find some. xo

  4. This looks delicious. FYI, my thinking is there’s no difference between plant breeding using the old tried and true hand pollination method, or the newer lab methods all lumped together under the terrifying label GMO.

    • I totally get that, Vinny. GMOs get a lot of press and it’s hard to tease out the different for and against arguments. For myself, I try to avoid GMOs if possible because of the unknown long-term health effects on humans. Hand pollination doesn’t bother me because it’s always happened in nature and when a farmer helps a crop along by cross pollinating, it’s a non-invasive technique. That said, certain subjects can veer into hysteria and I try to avoid that, too. :)

  5. Wow, those pictures just glow. I haven’t seen apriums before–I’ll have to keep my eyes open at the farmer’s market!

    • Well, the fruits themselves catch the light so nicely but thank you! If you’re up for a little day trip to Olympia our farmer’s market still has them (thurs-sun)!

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