Years back I found myself in Italy with quite a lot of apricots. In Florence, I bought a very generous kilo of fresh ripe apricots from a little farm stall on the Piazza Santo Spirito. My daughter and I ate quite a few of them as we strolled around the city. Then we had some for breakfast the next day, then a couple more in the rental car as we made our way down to Chianti, where we would stay another week with friends, and I would finally get my hands into a kitchen.
That left us with over a pound of apricots (a kilo is 2.2 pounds) and by now they were bruised, oozy and brown, and definitely past their prime for munching.
On vacation, I like to break the rules a little, don't you? Wine with lunch every day... pasta twice a day... why not pie for breakfast? I figured the fruit was as sweet as it could possibly be, so we wouldn't have to add much sugar, and I made it bottomless, just to cut back on the crust to fruit ratio. This was a pie fit for breakfast if ever there was one.
Next time you find yourself with a kilo, or a pound, or a handful of fruit past its munching prime, follow this simple formula for a breakfast (or dessert) treat. The only mildly tricky part is figuring out how much sugar to add. Add none if you want slightly sour fruit (when fruit cooks, the sugars dissipate) but in general, for something like apricots or peaches, I like about 2 teaspoons sugar per cup of very ripe sliced fruit. To thicken the filling, use about 2 teaspoons flour per cup of fruit.
The formula works with as little as 1/2 cup fruit. For small amounts, use a ramekin. I had about 2 1/2 cups fruit, so I used a deep 8-inch round baker. Of course you can use a pie dish, or even a cast-iron skillet. A standard 9 and 10-inch pie plate will need about 2 pounds of cut fruit, and it is for that amount that the recipe is written below.
Apricot Breakfast Pie
2 pounds really ripe apricots (or other fruit), cut into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons or more sugar, depending on sweetness of fruit, plus more for top
2 tablespoons flour
Pinches of any spices that would compliment (cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, etc.)
Pinch of grated lemon zest
Pie dough to fit top of dish
1 egg, beaten
Preheat oven to 425°F.
In a mixing bowl, combine the fruit, sugar and flour. Add optional spices and lemon zest. Transfer the mixture to a baking dish.
Roll out pie dough to about 1/4-inch thick, more substantial than you would with a normal pie crust. Cut in a circle slightly larger than top of baking dish. Carefully transfer the pastry to the baking dish and press down gently. Tuck the sides down.
With any left-over dough, cut out decorative pieces for top of pie: a message, a clue to the fruit below, or a branch and leaves. Brush the top with the beaten egg and sprinkle with a few pinches of sugar.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, until top begins to brown. Then lower the oven temperature to 350° F and bake another 15-30 minutes, depending on the fruit: ripe apricots take about 15 minutes, less ripe pears or apples can take 30 minutes. You'll know it's done when a syrupy liquid begins to bubble up the sides of the dish. Watch that the crust doesn't burn. If it is getting too brown but the filling isn't cooked, cover the top with foil.
Serve with a spoonful of plain yogurt, whipped cream, crème fraîche, or mascarpone.