The other morning I woke up fully intending to just have some baguette with butter and jam for breakfast. Then I spied the apricots I bought at a farmstand sitting on the counter. My intention was to make preserves with them the night before, only to realize I was running low on sugar. I know, that sounds hard to believe, but all my summer vacationing has left my home pantry in need of restocking.
As my stomach started to grumble, the apricots called to me from the bag. While putting up a pot of Moroccan mint tea, the idea to brûlée them popped into my mind. It’s such a simple, easy way to gussy them up. I used a sprinkle of coarse sugar (think Sugar in the Raw), some fleur de sel for a play on sweet and salty flavor, and fresh lemon thyme leaves added an aromatic, citrusy touch.
I ate a few straight from the skillet, and mashed a few onto a piece of buttered baguette. I guess in the end I really was just craving bread with butter and jam! You can also swirl these into yogurt, or keep the recipe in your back pocket for a super easy dessert—just serve them warm, over ice cream. Simply serving them with a dollop of fluffy, fresh whipped cream would do the trick, too!
I prefer to use butter when coating pans or skillets, but you can easily keep this recipe dairy-free by swapping in a neutral-tasting oil (chef speak for “imparts no flavor”), such as grapeseed or canola. My cast-iron skillets—I have both an 8-inch and 10-inch at home, are work horses in my kitchen. They go from stovetop to oven, and make for a lovely serving piece on the table. If you don’t have one, then just use a shallow 8-inch round broiler-safe pan or casserole dish.
What is fleur de sel? This coarse-grained salt is a type of sea salt harvested in France. I also have the Italian version of this, harvested in Sicily, and came across one produced in Cape Cod this past summer. The texture adds a nice crunch to the finished dish.
Butter or oil, to grease the skillet
8 small apricots, cut in half & pitted
2 teaspoons (10 grams) coarse natural cane sugar (like Sugar in the Raw)
Generous pinch of fleur de sel
2 sprigs of fresh lemon thyme, leaves removed & stems discarded
Preheat the broiler.
Rub a bit of butter or oil to coat the bottom and sides of an 8-inch cast iron skillet.
Arrange the apricots, cut side up, into the bottom of the pan. Evenly sprinkle the sugar on top of them. Do the same with the salt, and then the lemon thyme leaves.
Place the skillet under the broiler until the tops are very golden and bubbly. This will take 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the power of your broiler (see note). The sugar will first melt into little pools in the center of the apricots. Don’t get impatient; let them keep cooking. A few minutes later you’ll notice the sugar begin to caramelize, bubble up and become golden. It’s important to keep a close eye while making these, so don’t try to multitask (a good tip for any time you’re using the broiler).
Remove the skillet from the oven, and let it cool for a few minutes before serving.
Note: Gas broilers have a safety feature which makes them shut off when the oven gets too hot. You can avoid having your broiler shut off by keeping the oven door open slightly. This allows the heat to escape, while keeping the flame on to properly cook the apricots.