Vanilla and cardamom-scented apricots are paired with ginger syrup and lightly whipped mascarpone for an elegant and memorable dessert. The various components can be made ahead of time, making last minute assembly a snap.If ginger is not to your liking, skip this step. Instead, reduce the poaching liquid to a syrup and use that in its place. Serve the poached apricots at room temperature for maximum flavor.
To poach the fruit: Place the 1 cup of sugar, the salt, lemon peel, vanilla bean, cardamom pods, and the 2 cups water in a medium-size saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook for 5 minutes to infuse the flavors.
Add the apricots and poach the fruit for 2 minutes. Avoid the temptation to cook longer or the apricots will disintegrate. The apricots should hold their shape and their skins should remain intact. Remove the pan from the heat and let the apricots cool in the syrup, uncovered. At this point, the apricots can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 days. Bring them to room temperature before serving.
If you wish to use the apricot poaching liquid instead of the ginger syrup, transfer the apricots with a slotted spoon to a shallow bowl and cover with half of the poaching liquid. Return the remaining syrup to the stove and reduce over medium heat until the mixture thickens and turns golden.
To make the ginger syrup: Combine the candied ginger purée with the 1/3 cup sugar and the 1-1/2 cups water in a small pan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid reduces and thickens, 20 to 30 minutes. Strain the syrup through a fine mesh sieve and set aside at room temperature. You should have about 2/3 cup of syrup. Alternately, refrigerate the syrup in a covered container for up to 1 week. Microwave or warm the syrup over low heat to liquify before using.
Just before serving, combine the heavy cream, sugar, and apricot brandy in a bowl and whip to soft peaks. Place the mascarpone in another small bowl and whisk to soften. Add the mascarpone to the whipped cream and beat again to combine.
To serve: For each serving, place 4 apricot halves in a shallow bowl. Top with a dollop of mascarpone cream and garnish with a sprinkling of candied ginger. Drizzle the fruit with some of the ginger syrup. Serve immediately.