06 March 2009

Apricot "Sunny-Side Up" Pastries

I guess I thought this would be easier. The surgery is one thing - long, scary, difficult, but in the end it ends. And mom gets moved out of intensive care and the scar heals and I think my life can resemble normalcy again. Only it can't. This long haul part- the weeks of chemo, the 24 hour nursing, the constant complications and medications, I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to support my mom, work at my job, maintain my household and some semblance of my own life, while constantly commuting between two cities. If I'm not with my mom consistently, I'm out of the loop, I hear about doctors visits only after they happen and crises only after they're fixed. But I can't just abandon my job and my friends because I'm afraid when I need them they might not be there.

So I'm not good at this. I'm trying but I'll be the first to admit I haven't quite found a balance that's working. And in the meantime, the little things I am good at - my job (hopefully), feeding people, knowing about obscure spices, those little things help remind me that I'm competent at something.

I made this recipe for my office the other day, after a rare weekend when I had time to bake. They're very simple little pastries with apricots placed over puff pastry so that they end up looking like sunny-side eggs. They're very easy and I think quite cute. When so many things in your life are disappointing, there is something so satisfying about watching people enjoy something you made, and even ask you for the recipe. So here you go:

Apricot "Sunny-Side Up" Pastries
Extrapolated from something I saw Julia Childs make once.

1 box puff pastry, thawed
1 recipe vanilla pastry cream, recipe follows, (or substitute prepared/purchased vanilla pudding)
2 cans apricot halves or 16 poached halved fresh apricots
1/4 cup apricot jelly

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Use an overturned glass or circle cutter to cut the pastry into rounds. Use a rolling pin press down on the center of each circle so that it is more of an oval shape (the edges will be thicker than the center of the pastry, this will enable the pastry to puff up around the apricots.

2. Place rounds on a greased or lined baking sheet and top with a dollop of pastry cream/pudding, spreading the cream slightly into a circle. Top each round with one apricot, cut side down, or two apricots for bigger "double-yolk" pastries. (at this point assembled pastries can be refrigerated, covered, overnight). Bake 25-35 minutes, or until puffed and golden and brown on the bottom.

3. Warm the apricot jelly in the microwave/small saucepan until warm and liquid. Use a pastry brush to brush the top of the apricots with jelly so that they remain moist and shiny. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pastry Cream:
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pinch salt
1/2 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten to combine

1. Bring the milk, 1/4 cup of the sugar, butter, salt and vanilla bean to a gentle boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat.
2. Whisk together the cornstarch and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Add the eggs to the cornstarch and mix into a smooth paste.
3. Slowly, and in small amounts, whisk a little of the hot milk into a the egg mixture. (this is called tempering the eggs, which you need to do to get them to the same temperature of the hot milk in the pan, so they won’t curdle.) Once the egg mixture is warm to the touch, pour it back into the milk in the pan.
4. Return the custard to the stove and bring to a boil, whisking continuously for 2 to 3 minutes, so that the custard is thick and does not taste grainy. Optional: press pastry cream through a sieve for ultimate smoothness.
5. Refrigerate with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface until ready to use.


Anonymous said...

You are in a crisis and it's okay to not be good at it. I'm sending you and your mom good and hopeful thoughts.

Y said...

What lovely, whimsical pastries.

I guess it's never easy, and I guess we all just have to cope the best we can. Wishing your mom all the best...

Anonymous said...

I really hope and pray that everything works out for your mother. I can only imagine the fear and worry that the both of you must be going through, and how difficult it must be to keep trying to maintain a "normal" life. Thank you for continuing to post your recipes though - right now I can only gaze hungrily at the pictures, but I do intend on trying out your recipes as soon as I can. Gambatte ne (Catch-all equivalent of "good luck/take care" in Japanese) -Jeff

Shirley Sunman said...


I love your blog, you are a voice of pain, reason and normalcy in my world.

From a one dimensional, completely selfish perspective reading your pain somehow puts my daily boring grind into perspective.

You are a fabulous writer with a great gift. Long may you continue to cook and to write.

And long may you continue to care for your mother. She will know, come what may, that you care.

Ev said...

I've not commented on your blog before today, but have been reading for a while now.

You're a very strong woman, my dear, and, as difficult as it is, you will get through this. It isn't easy. Be kind to yourself; do what YOU need to do to survive this. Your friends, if they are true friends, will be there for you when you need them. You can't be strong all the time so don't be afraid to lean on them from time to time. That's what friends are for.

In the meantime, know that there are people in your blogosphere who are thinking about you, praying for you and your mother, sending good thoughts and virtual hugs your way.

Dori said...

How adorable, they look like eggs!

aufeinwort said...

dear mercedes,
i read your post and just wanted to tell you that although we do not know each other at all, i am thinking of you,sending you strenghth and courage and all that you need from a faraway country and from someone who knows how rough life can be.thinking of the sunny side up is good and you need just that.all the best,anja

Quinne said...

Hi Mercedes :) Thanks for the update - you are on my mind and in my prayers so often.

This is a very sweet recipe - I think my littles will love it! Love, Q

Anonymous said...

Hi Mercedes,

I tend to use your blog as a cookbook/inspiration point. I don't read any food blogs regularly, but yours is once that I know exactly where it's bookmarked.

I was referencing your hummus dilettante post this morning and decided to browse your more recent posts. I'm so sorry to hear what you and your mother are going through with her cancer.

I hope you are able to find a balance without feeling like you are abandoning anything.

Thank you for sharing your recipes and your life. Your generosity astounds me.

Anonymous said...

Do not worry, Have faith!
Our prayers are with you.
Those look awesome, nice idea :-)

Anonymous said...

So glad that you posted! I've been reading your blog for about a year now. Since you posted about your mom, you've been on my mind a lot, and I was wondering how things are going. I am so sorry for all that you are going through!

I love your recipes and insight. And, I wanted to let you know that I'm going to make that coconut cake from an earlier post- in honor or your mom and mine! My mom loves coconut cake too!

We're thinking of you out here and sending healing thoughts and strength your way!

Anonymous said...

*hugs* You really are wonderful and I hope all your baking brings you the warmth that I know you are bringing everyone else in your life. Jesus loves you! =)
xoxo, J

Unknown said...

Hi Mercedes,

Found your blog recently and love it! My thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time. I, too, took care of my mother while juggling full time college, and a part time catering job. I quit college and my business to move in with mom during hospice. Afterwards I finished college, but my business was gone, and some friends gone, too, but the true ones remained. I started the business back up after taking time off. It feels like you're out of control, but we cannot control everything. Take time for yourself, be still, know you are a loving daughter, valuable employee, incredibly talented food writer & chef, and loyal friend. Let others care for you , too.

Dad said...

"...... and exha-a-ale!!"

Phew, I have to admit to wincing every time I logged on to see you weren't "around" for another day Mercedes. One a day, that's just over 30 winces in all!!

I can tell from what you wrote that the smile has slipped from your face but that's ok.

There will be good as well as not so good days/weeks ahead & although we are not there to help you nurse your Mom, hopefully it will help your missing smile to know that everyone that reads your pages think of you and your situation at least once, each and every day.

That's a LOT of positive vibes!


(no relation)

ps - I took two of Marya's date tarts into work with me yesterday and they were both gone within 40 minutes.

God bless Marya!

a reference said...

this looks like the best breakfast ever! i'm so sorry about your mom. you two will be in my thoughts and prayers. i've dedicated my latest posting to you, because you have added such joy in my life.


Susan said...

Take one day at a time, your true friends will always be there.

The pastries are adorable.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mercedes,
No one is good at dealing with a sick family member. You are being present in your mother's life, and that is the best you can be. You have all of our care and support. If you ever need anything, please don't hesitant to ask.

Anonymous said...

you're doing all that you can in the best way you know how and i, for one, think that that is more than enough...

as always, you and your mom are in my thoughts and prayers.

thank you for the sunny little recipe.

with love,

Mark Scarbrough said...

So I just got Martha Holmberg's book on puff pastry--PUFF--and think I'm going to make these with her homemade puff pastry dough. I have never tried to make puff pastry, but I'm sort of gunning to try--the whole laminating the dough thing, etc. And once I've got the darn stuff, I think these cookies look like the perfect things to make from it.

What a treat! And again, my best thoughts your way as you work through the problems. You're a very talented foodie--and we'll all be waiting for you when you come back full-blower.

Cornelius said...

Desert Candy lives on! Hoorah!

Anonymous said...

It is evident from your posts that you are born to excell,just dont forget that you are human and as such you must allow the 'valleys' of life in which we recieve the possibility to search 'underneath',only to come up and out with greater pearls of strength and wisdom.
Kahlil Gibran in "The Prophet" says:"Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.Even as the stone of the fruit must break,that it`s heart may stand in the sun,so must you know pain.And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life,your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy."
His words have been a great inspiration for me in moments of tremendous pain,and I just wanted to share them with you hoping it might bring even the smallest bit of sense in what may probably seem to be a chaotic reality.
As I feel for you and wish you no pain,I also know that it is part of our life.You seem to be very strong and able to undergo this difficult moment especially if you accept it.I believe your real friends are also there to accept you in whatever you choose to do.
God Bless you and your mom,I wish her a quick and easy recovery.Mia

Nino's Mum said...

:) may there be lots of sunny-side-ups in your life too.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the best blogs that I am following. You words speak right to my heart and your recipes right to my stomach. And I love the Middle Eastern connection- since I am from that part of the world as well. Keep up the good work and wishing all the best for your beloved mother.

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Anonymous said...


I have not commented on your blog before, but rest assured I have been reading it for quite a while. I don't know how I stumbled upon it, but being Armenian with roots in Iran and Greece, you cannot imagine the sheer joy I felt that your blog was centered around Middle Eastern food. I anticipate your entries and secretly smile inside when I know exactly what ingredients, traditions and delicacies you are talking about.

Anyway, I can't begin to understand what a difficult time you are going through, so all I want to say is that I am keeping you and your family in my thoughts.<3

Allie said...

Over time, you'll find a balance. It's never easy, though - just focus on the things most important, and let the others slide a bit. Friends and such will be there when you need them if they're real friends - and right now, what you need from them is probably to let you take care of your mom guilt free. If I knew you in real life, I'd likely be confused about the two cities thing; instead I'd expect you to go be with your family. If you can afford to take time off work, do so. I expect your job will be understanding and I'm sure there's some sort of leave that you can reasonably take (even if it's vacation time, etc), please do so.

Best wishes to you, your mom and your family. You're in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

These look wonderful. I've been searching for a recipe like this one. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

ok, im in love with the name and the dish ! ;P

Anonymous said...

Best wishes to you and your mom.

These look delicious and cute!

Swati said...

When I read about your mom's cancer, my heart went out to you, but I didn't know then - who does - that I would be in the same boat today. Its my dad, and although he has been operated, and I have family around me, it is still the same starkness of pain. He is scheduled to start radiotherapy/chemotherapy later this month, but - oh dear god, life is so horrible even now. He doesn't believe that it is cancer, doesn't want to believe perhaps, or maybe the cancer itself has lead to these judgmental and emotional changes. How do we get him to accept that? Even the word cancer has him broken, how to make him see more? I dare not. Yet, this lack of honesty, this dilly dallying around the truth, tiptoeing around painful reality is killing. I can't help feeling he deserves better, that he can stand it, that he can deal with it. Mom says, no. What do I do? And the little things of daily life, the room to ourselves, the time for my child, the time on internet - the lack of these little things hurts too. Sounds heartless, doesn't it? Maybe it is the other big pain disguised, maybe it is just because these were part of the gossamer net of support around me, and in one fell swoop I am deprived of everything... I am ranting and raving, and I shouldn't. I had really started to comment to tell you how good a job you are doing, that I know how much you have to handle, now. It is like you said in your first post when you talked of your uncle's partner.