Sunday, May 8, 2011

Poached Dried Apricots in Star Anise Simple Syrup

London, 2011
Last month, I had The Most Delicious Dried Apricots Ever at HIX at the Albemarle. They were poached in simple syrup flavored with star anise and cinnamon. They were good, really good. They tasted familiar but with the surprise of star anise. How did I know they were flavored with star anise and cinnamon? Easy peasy! Those two whole spices were in the serving bowl. Nice detective work, huh?? I’m a regular Nancy Drew.

I had the apricots for breakfast. They seemed somewhat virtuous served with non-fat yogurt, but I’m thinking they’ll be a bit naughty with vanilla ice cream and/or or spice cake for dessert. Or, be still my heart, a warm gingerbread this fall. Do you agree?

I don’t have the HIX recipe, so I’ve improvised. Simple syrup is generally 2 parts sugar to 1 part water. So, this recipe can easily be adjusted. It might be fun to experiment with dark and/or light brown sugar, but the darker sugars will affect the color of your syrup. I’m going to revisit this recipe when apricots are in season (not too far off!) using light brown sugar. I’m thinking about poached fresh apricots in lieu of apples or blueberries in a crumb cake. Oh! Yes, please!! And, just so you know, my syrup has a dominant star anise flavor - the HIX apricots were subtler. Feel free and use just one star anise if that suits your taste.
Here’s a question: to pre-soak or not to pre-soak? Recently, the dried apricots I’ve been buying in bulk have been very plump and moist. Pre-soaking might make them mushy. Bleh. If your apricots are very dry, I suggest pre-soaking then in boiling water to plump them up a bit (see directions below).

Poached Dried Apricots in Star Anise Simple Syrup
Makes one bowl of gorgeous apricots
1 lb dried apricots
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 star anise
1 cinnamon stick (a smallish one)
Optional: If the dried apricots are particularly dry, pre-soak them in boiling water. The water should just cover the apricots. Add boiling water as necessary to keep them covered. When they are moist and plump, remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Place the apricots in a heat safe bowl. Make sure there is enough room for the syrup.
Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan together with the star anise and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil. Pour over the dried apricots. Let apricots come to room temperature before either serving or refrigerating.
The apricots in syrup should keep well in the fridge for a month.
I had a couple of ideas:
Any extra syrup would make a fine mixer for cocktails or a fruit punch (with or without alcohol).
If you're serving the apricots for dessert, a star anise (preferably unbroken) would make a simple and beautiful garnish.

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