If you follow us on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll know that I tried and failed to make retes while we were in Slovakia. At the supermarket, there’s a selection of different refrigerated doughs, but all seemed more like puff pastry than flaky phyllo. One did specify it is for strudel, so we bought it, but when I unwrapped it at home it was a single thick sheet. I had tasked the children with collecting sour cherries from the half-wild stand of trees in the far reaches of the yard, and prepared a mixture of finely chopped walnuts and toasted breadcrumbs to fill the retes, but with just this single slab of pastry to work with, I had way more filling than I needed, as well as a lot of melted butter that needed to be put to use. So I improvised a cake, baked in a tart pan because that’s what I could easily dig out of the cupboard, and it was really good! But of course, I didn’t really measure any of the ingredients or makes notes for a recipe.
Flash forward to this morning; I thought I’d recreate the cake so I could share it with you. But birds had gotten to the rest of the sour cherries, leaving us instead with an enormous dish of apricots from our trees, some a little knocked around it’s true, but all the better to cook with. Then there weren’t enough walnuts left in the cupboard, and oddly, none of the little village shops carried them, so I came home with hazelnuts: we have a bushy nut tree in the yard as well, but they won’t be ready until late autumn. I like hazelnuts, but they are a little more trouble than some other nuts, since their skins need to be removed unless you like the sensation of little bits of paper in your food. Further complicating things today, I found some parts of a blender in the cupboard, but not all the pieces needed to get it to, you know, actually work. So I had to chop the roly-poly hazelnuts by hand, which looked to be a nightmare until I realized I could smash them to bigger bits with a handy meat mallet (something no Central European kitchen would be without) and then more finely mince them with a knife. Making do!
I wanted to bring in something more from the garden to make this cake really reflect the high summer season. We were sweltering for most of our visit here to Slovakia, and with the cool damp spring behind us, the garden has really exploded. I chose the tiny tender leaves of our thyme plant to add some of summer’s perfume to the cake, and while you definitely could leave it out, it really works with the tart apricot/rich hazelnut pairing. Try it!
- 1 cup whole hazelnuts
- 10-14 fresh apricots
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme (optional)
- 5 Tbs butter, melted
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
- Preheat oven to 400° F. On a baking sheet, spread the hazelnuts in a single layer and toast until they are fragrant, their papery skins are cracking and the nuts themselves beginning to turn golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly; rub in a clean dishtowel to remove the rest of the skins.
- Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Grease a 12" tart pan or springform pan.
- In a food processor, pulse the toasted hazelnuts a few times until coarsely chopped (you don't want them to start forming a paste). Scrape nuts into a large bowl.
- Add the flour, baking powder and soda and salt to the chopped nuts.
- If you are using the thyme, rub it into the sugar to release some of the oils, then add the sugar to the dry ingredients and whisk to combine.
- Whisk together the melted butter, eggs, vanilla and yogurt or sour cream in a small bowl.
- Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.
- Scrape batter into the prepared pan.
- Cut or tear each apricot in half, and arrange, cut side down, on the top of the batter (discard the pits). Sprinkle the top of the cake with additional sugar, if desired.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.
- If you don't have the full 3/4 cup of yogurt or sour cream, just make up the rest with milk.
- If, like us, you don't have a food processor, you can more quickly chop the nuts by first crushing them in a plastic bag using a rolling pin or meat mallet, then take them out of the bag and chop with a knife.