Apricots have got to be one of the most summery fruits – even just their warm, orangey-reddy colour makes me think of sunshine, which is probably just as well since it has just started raining here in Edinburgh. However, they might look lovely, but more often than not I find myself awfully disappointed by the apricots that we get here in the UK – they’re not usually particularly juicy and tend to be rather on the bitter side. I can tell you precisely the number of apricots that I have eaten this year that have fully met my expectations of being properly apricot-like (eight, if you’re interested), and all of them were whilst I was in France over the last week. Actually, to be fair, before I left for France, apricots hadn’t really made an appearance here yet. Since this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge, hosted by Chele at Chocolate Teapot, is “Apricots,” the lack of fresh apricots was rapidly becoming a minor issue. However, my mum saved the day by coming across a recipe for an apricot, ginger and chocolate loaf that used dried apricots.
I was going to try it out last week, but as we had to travel to France unexpectedly, that didn’t end up happening. Having finally managed to find some stem ginger in syrup in Waitrose yesterday, I decided to try the recipe this morning. Which is when I discovered that we’d been so focused on finding the ginger that we’d completely forgotten to buy dried apricots. Fail. Luckily though, whilst we were away, Tesco clearly started stocking fresh apricots though, and my mum happened to buy some yesterday, so I decided to substitute fresh apricots for the dried ones (mostly because I was feeling a little bit too lazy to walk all the way to Waitrose which is not only around 20 minutes away, but also up a hill). Having been lulled into a false sense of security by the lovely French apricots we had access to over the last week, I was unprepared for the bitterness and non-juiciness of the apricot I decided to munch on. Unimpressed. Baked goods were clearly all they were good for.
I will stop ranting about disappointing apricots now, except to say that on inspection of the label, it transpired that the apricots had actually been imported from France. So, either they really don’t travel well or the French sell all their crappy apricots to the UK and keep the good ones in France. I suspect it’s probably a combination of both, and I would find the latter option quite amusing… if I didn’t have to eat the crappy ones. Right, my rant is well and truly over now, let’s move onto the actual point of this post: the loaf. I’d originally been planning to halve the amount of sugar, but based on the bitterness of the fresh apricot I tried, I decided to only reduce the sugar by about a quarter. Using fresh apricots worked well, but I think dried apricots would be better since they would match the texture and consistency of the stem ginger. My mum and I ended up having some of the loaf for dessert after lunch, with a bit of whipped cream on the side, and it was really quite yummy, although pretty heavy.
Apricot, ginger & chocolate loaf
Makes 10-12 slices
Adapted from Pierre Hermé’s Mes desserts au chocolat
Whilst I used fresh apricots, I would suggest using dried apricots as indicated in the original recipe, as I think they would match the texture and consistency of the ginger better than pieces of fresh apricot. That said, using fresh apricot is still delicious, and if you decide to use fresh apricots, increase the quantity of caster sugar to 150g. This loaf is delicious as a snack with a cup of tea, but also works wonderfully as a dessert served with a bit of whipped cream on the side. I found the loaf to be even yummier the next day, which is great since you can make it the day before you plan to serve it and it’s one less thing for you to worry about!
125g dried apricots (or de-stoned fresh apricots)
55g stem ginger in syrup
180g unsalted butter
180g all-purpose flour
40g cocoa powder (at least 70%)
½ tsp baking powder
140g ground almonds
100g caster sugar
4 large eggs
15o ml whole milk
70g dark chocolate chips
1. Re-hydrate the dried apricots in just-boiled water for 1 minute, before removing them and drying them with kitchen roll. Finely chop the apricots and ginger and set aside. Butter a large loaf tin. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Meanwhile, sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into a medium-sized bowl and stir together. In a large bowl, stir together the ground almonds and sugar.
3. Add the eggs to the almond and sugar mix one at a time, using an electric whisk and whisking for about 2 mins between the addition of each one. Continue whisking until the mixture has thickened slightly. At a slower speed, mix in the milk, followed by the flour mixture. Add the chopped apricots, ginger and chocolate chips and mix in. Finally, mix in the melted butter.
4. Pour the batter into the loaf tin and bake for 40-45 mins, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Once baked, allow to cool for about 10 mins in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool fully.