Apricot Tart and a tour through Poupart's Bakery

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Apricots.  They are peeking out with their gentle but cheery hue in the markets.  Such  sweet juicy cartons of apricots landed in my shopping basket this week.  I knew just what I wanted to make with them... an apricot tart.

My daughter was spending the weekend with her best friend, who was in town for six weeks of grueling ballet training with the prestigious Houston Ballet Company.  

We were so happy to whisk her away from dorm food and spend a weekend giving her a break from the intensive training of becoming a professional ballerina.

I certainly wanted to take advantage of the apricots calling out in the markets.  While the girls shopped and pampered their feet, I cooked and made a special meal for them at the end of the day.

Houston Ballet chooses only  a handful of the most talented students from around the country for six weeks of training in the Russian Vagonova method of ballet study.  Madeleine has also studied this methodology  and it is a precise, intensive training that produces a dancer with incredibly exact technique.  

The girls had a wonderful weekend together.  These are lifelong friends.  It will be so wonderful to see where their paths take them in the future and to watch their friendship continue to bond with the changes that they each encounter along their journeys.  Madeleine and I even made tiny little round tartlets for her to take back to the dorm as a special treat for all of her hard work.

With tarts, pies, and pastries in mind, this brings me back a couple of weeks to a recent trip.   I was  in my home town of Lafayette, Louisiana.  

It's been years since I  lived in the South. As I was rediscovering some of my favorite places, I passed by a location that made me gasp with delight.  Without hesitation, I pulled into the parking lot. Was it still the same?  On the outside it looked exactly the same to my adult eyes as my childhood memory recalled. 

What I was looking at was Poupart's Family Bakery and Boulangerie. It was known as the finest bakery for all things french and all things southern and sweet when I was a child.

And guess what.  It still is.  Run by the same Poupart family with a new generation of grown children on board, Poupart's Bakery is thriving and continuing to bring fresh baked goodness to this southern cajun town.

It's enchanting to return to your hometown after years of being away and rediscover landmarks that just seem time eternal and evoke  fond memories.  

I stopped by early in the morning so I could smell the freshness of all of the breads and pastries baking.  I knew I couldn't return to Houston without a box of goodness for the kids.  

Don't you just love when special places like this stay unchanged through time?  This bakery has been around as long as I can remember and for two generations before me.  A beautiful thing.

Why didn't I pick up a few bottles of these gorgeous syrups?  Toasted Pecan and Apple Cinnamon.  Next time, I'm not leaving without these for Patrick's Waffle Sunday.

The pastry case transports you directly to any of the bakeries sprinkled all over the small villages of France. The tarts and pastries all look like they came right from a bona fide french bakery...and they did...from the french Poupart's family that settled in southern Louisiana.

As soon as I walked in the door, I heard that familiar lyrical pattern of heavy cajun french being spoken by a gentleman on the phone. I knew immediately that this was Mr. Poupart.  

Memories of the cajun french spoken by my grandparents and most everyone of their generation filled my ears with a connection that can only be encountered in this unique cajun culture.

Mr. Poupart and his sons run this authentic bakery filled with typical french finds as well as established cajun favorites.  When I told them that I would love to write a story for Honest Cooking Magazine about their bakery, they were gracious hosts and were tickled to show me their ovens and kitchens where all the magic happens.

The bakery was bustling about in the back getting loaves of bread baked and pastries assembled.  It was still early in the morning and the aroma of fresh goods were making my head spin with heady anticipation of what I was going to carry away.

They had a "Dobash Cake" cake ready to go and pointed out that this is a favorite southern Louisiana cake for special occasions.  It is a french cake that when sliced is in many thin layers with filling in between each one.

Back in the kitchens they were kneading the soft velvety mounds of dough.  The deftness and generations of practice was evident as everyone bustled contentedly to and fro creating age-old deliciousness for so many families from this area to discover and enjoy.

Mr. Poupart was a gregarious man full of pep and energy with a thick cajun drawl and a twinkle in his eye as he proudly showed me around his craft.  

His sons are carrying on the family business and they were happy to let me peek inside the huge ovens.  Breathing in the scent of fresh baked loaves of bread is something that should be sold and bottled for a high price!

Look at those beautiful loaves of bread.  Can you imagine baking this deliciousness day after day and watching happy customers enjoy this bounty?  What a wonderful trade passed down three generations of one family.

Mr. Poupart seemed to know everyone who walked in the door.   Hugs were given to one quaint little woman and newspapers casually handed to the regulars who strolled in for their morning chat with Mr. Poupart.  It was evident, people felt the security and comfort of tradition and acceptance... and delicious food.

This man {above} particularly caught my attention.  I could tell this was his regular breakfast spot.  A soft haze of morning sun haloed his frame in the front window.  A warm cup of coffee was being sipped and a fresh baguette  so casually being enjoyed.  If I labeled this photo, it would be titled "La Joie de Vie...la simpicité"...the joy of life...simplicity.

This image sums up the relaxed pace of this southern city, its people, and its small shops that hold loyal customers.  This traditional french bakery is known and celebrated in this part of the country as Lafayette's "Poupart's Family Bakery".  

If you are ever passing through Lafayette, Louisiana seek it out.  Try the tiny blackberry tarts, the fresh french bread baguettes. Don't miss picking up a bottle of their own toasted pecan syrup or a pastry titled "The Shoe Sole".   

Apricot Tart

8 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 cups plus 1 Tablespoon flour
2 Tablespoons almond flour plus more for sprinkling

Tart Filling:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons honey
2 Tablespoons almond flour
6-8 apricots sliced thinly

Pre-heat oven to 350˚.  Butter a 9" round tart pan or a rectangular tart pan of your choice.  

To make the pastry crust:
Combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until combined.  Using a paper towel, coat tart pan with butter so that it will be easy to remove after baking.  Press pastry crust carefully into the sides of the pan (Snippets Notes:  placing plastic wrap over the crust as you are forming it to the pan can be helpful).  Bake the crust for 12 - 15 minutes watching carefully.

For the Tart filling:
Whisk together cream, egg, almond extract, vanilla extract, and honey.  Add in the almond flour and stir to combine.  Arrange your sliced apricots in any pattern you desire.  Carefully pour the filling all around the fruit but do not cover the fruit.  Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and carefully slide into the oven.  Set timer for 30 - 50 minutes but check often to be sure the tart doesn't overcook.  Remove tart from oven and let cool completely.

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