Tuesday, November 20, 2012
rosemary apricot squares.
I have to admit, I was a little skeptical when I saw the use of rosemary in dessert. Rosemary is a pretty strong herb. Besides, I have yet to accept mint in chocolate, so why would I like rosemary with apricots?
I won't say that rosemary and apricots are a match made in heaven, but I concede that the herb makes the otherwise ordinary apricot squares interesting. Somehow, they just go together. And with the nuttiness of the almonds in the topping, they taste pretty exotic. In a good way.
The instructions for the apricot filling would benefit from a bit of clarification: When the instructions say "to simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated", it would be best to pull the pan off the heat when there is slightly more than a shallow pool of syrup in the pan. Really. Because I went a bit overboard and was left with nothing more than a thin film of liquid after I had set it aside to cool. The thick syrup was extremely stubborn and blending it together with the apricots nearly broke my blender's blade if not for an extra tablespoon of hot water to loosen the mixture.
I was surprised at how much filling there seemed to be at first but after baking and slicing, I realized that the apricot layer was really thin in comparison to the shortbread layer. Speaking of the shortbread, I was initially worried that I had underbaked it- the cross section reveals a texture akin to underbaked cookie dough, doesn't it? But it all turned out all right in the end. It wasn't particularly crunchy, but it had a lovely smooth texture.
Rosemary Apricot Squares
adapted from Baked Explorations
The apricot filling is pretty sweet so reduce the sugar to suit your taste, if necessary. Also, dicing the apricots might help to hasten the simmering process.
For the rosemary shortbread dough:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, minced (I used dried)
12 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
For the apricot filling:
2 cups dried California apricots
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp brandy
pinch of salt
For the crumb topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped (I used almonds)
pinch of salt
3 tbsp cold unsalted butter, diced
Line a 9 inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving enough overhang to lift the bars up easily.
To make the rosemary shortbread dough: Whisk the flour, salt and rosemary together in a medium bowl. Cream the butter, icing sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Stir in the flour mixture. Scrape the dough into the prepared pan and press it into an even layer. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. You can get started on the apricot filling in the meantime.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Bake the dough until golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool the pan on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
To make the apricot filling: Place the apricots, sugar, honey, brandy, salt and 1 1/2 cups water in a medium saucepan and simmer over low heat for 40 to 50 minutes or until the apricots are fork tender and most of the liquid has evaporated or thickened. Do not go overboard. Remove the pan from the heat and stir to release the excess steam. Scrape the apricot mixture into a food processor and puree until smooth.
To make the crumb topping: Combine the flour, brown sugar, pecans and salt in a bowl. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until crumbs begin to form. You can do this by hand or in a stand mixer. The crumb topping can be made in advance, stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.
To assemble: Spread the apricot filling over the shortbread, then sprinkle the crumb topping over. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crumbs have browned. Let the pastry cool for 30 minutes in the pan then lift it out using the overhang and cut into squares. I find it easier to cut if you let it chill in the refrigerator until cold. The squares can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 days.