scents wafting from heaven are here ::::
Past candy-making experience documented here shows my trial and error with jelly and gummy candy. It was all very sad until I did a little chemistry homework to make sense of it all. But not every candy-maker has the same bad results, even with the same recipes. The size of sugar actually makes a difference too.
Last year, I waxed prolific on the heavenly combination of apricots and Earl Grey Tea after trying ubuntu‘s post-dessert apricot jellies with Earl Grey sugar. The perfect recipe has alluded me until I relented and decided to try a tried-and-true pâte de fruit recipe again. Pâte de fruit is not quite a jelly candy recipe, but an easy swap if craving that sort of consistency. I searched for a fresh apricot jelly candy type recipe using this summer’s fresh apricots without luck. Most that I found touted the “candy” title but admitted post-recipe that, really, they had instructions for spreadable jelly. I revisited a recipe using canned apricots, apricot jam, and dried apricots instead. While I had some sweaty candies the first and second time I made these pâte de fruits in 2007, this time dredging was better when using larger grained sugar. I sugared my pâte de fruit and stored them for a few days in the fridge with finger-tip stickiness only. I wouldn’t even call that weepy! Success!
I felt the tea flavor in the sugar melded better with the candies after a day of sitting in the fridge after dredging. Obviously, these are very sweet when sugared, so a little goes a long way. Experiment with other teas here. Perhaps a nice grassy green tea would pair well with the apricots. Or try a fruit-flavored zinger tea to bring out the tang of apricot. Find your own little taste of Heaven.
- One 15-ounce can apricots in syrup
- 12 dried apricot halves (4 ounces)
- 12 ounce jar of apricot preserves (I used one that was only fruit juice sweetened)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ cup large grain turbinado sugar, plus more for coating*
- 2 envelopes unflavored powdered gelatin (4½ teaspoons)
- ⅓ cup water, to boil
- 1 teabag of Earl Grey Tea, plus 1-2 more for sanding sugar
- Lightly oil an 8-by-8-inch straight-edged baking dish. Line the dish with a sheet of wax paper or parchment paper that extends 4 inches beyond the rim.
- Strain the apricot syrup from the can into a saucepan; reserve the apricots. Add the dried apricots to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the apricots are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, 5-10 minutes.
- Transfer the contents of the saucepan to a food processor. Add the reserved canned apricots, the apricot preserves, lemon juice, and the ½ cup of sugar. Process until smooth (this works better if you have a VitaMix). Set aside.
- Boil the ⅓ cup water and add one Earl Grey teabag to steep for a couple of minutes. Allow to cool slightly as you work on the next step.
- Transfer the apricot puree to the saucepan and boil over moderately high heat, stirring constantly, until it has thickened and any excess liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Stirring is important as the mixture will scorch if not stirred as it comes to a boil.
- Pour steeped tea into a microwave-safe bowl. In small amounts to avoid clumping, sprinkle the gelatin over the tea, stirring in between additions. Microwave 10-20 seconds to dissolve the gelatin completely. Stir the gelatin-tea mixture into the apricot puree. Scrape the mixture into the prepared dish and smooth the surface. Let cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- Prepare sanding sugar: Cut open two unused teabags and pour contents into spice mill. Grind until tea is very fine. Mix about 1 teaspoon ground tea with 2 tablespoons sugar, depending on how many of the candies you want to sugar with the tea sugar versus plain sugar (I did a mixture of both).
- Just before serving, unmold the apricot pâte de fruit onto a work surface. Peel off and discard the wax/parchment paper. Using a sharp knife, cut the pâte into 1-inch squares or triangles (I used mini cookie cutters to make cute shapes). Spread tea sugar (or plain sugar) in a shallow bowl. Roll the pieces in the sugar to coat. Arrange on a platter and serve.
- Make Ahead: The pâte de fruit can be prepared through Step 4 and refrigerated, covered, for up to 1 week. Dab with paper towels before proceeding, if weepy. Mine did great great in the fridge for a few days, and dried out just a little (which can help the weepy factor).