This week's Baked Sunday Mornings project was to make these Rosemary Apricot Squares, a pleasant surprise if ever there was one. Why? Well, I guess I just didn't think I'd like these bars very much; they don't sound quite as exciting as most of the other Baked recipes do. I'll be honest with you; I don't eat apricots. I don't buy fresh apricots, and I don't buy dried apricots. I've also never turned a dried fruit into a jam filling, so this recipe marked a couple firsts for me. I'm glad I took the plunge, because these bars were simply delightful.
You start out with a pretty simple shortbread crust. The addition of fresh, minced rosemary lends specks of color to this otherwise blond layer, and gives it a nice, floral dimension that I really liked.
The next layer is a fruit filling layer, and it actually couldn't have been much easier to make. I cooked a bunch of dried apricots down in a mixture of water, honey, brandy, sugar, and a pinch of salt. They did take forever to get to what I considered the "ready" stage, but it was all worth the time spent on the stove. The mixture is transferred to a food processor and pureed until smooth. I tasted it, and I was surprised at how good it was. Maybe apricots deserve another try, I thought.
This fruit filling is then spread over the cooled shortbread crust and evened out. A final layer of delicious topping is sprinkled over the top of the fruit. It's just flour, dark brown sugar, flour, a bit of salt, some butter, and chopped pecans. It tastes like crumb cake topping, but mine was a lot sandier and less chunky than crumb cake topping. Plus, I patted mine down so that the top layer looks more smooth and uniform, with just the lumps of pecan visible.
The squares were so fragrant while they were in the oven; my curiosity was officially piqued. Before making these, I didn't even know if I was going to try them. I figured the whole batch would be sent off to work with Andy, never to be seen again. But now I wanted to eat one!
When it came time to cut these into squares, I trimmed the edges from the outer sides of the block. The apricot had seeped out a bit and burned on the sides, and it just wasn't as attractive as the rest of the bars were. So I snacked. I tried those edges, and I loved them. The shortbread is tender (maybe a bit too tender and crumbly, but still delicious!), the apricot layer is sweet and smooth and wonderful, and the topping is the perfect nutty, salty foil to the rest of the bar. This cookbook has done it again; it's taken flavors that are an odd pairing, and transformed them into an amazing, cohesive dessert that seems to work on every level. I am very impressed with the Rosemary Apricot Squares. Now I think I better make sure the rest of them do make it to work with Andy, because they are dangerous to keep around!
Find out if everybody else in the group was impressed with these bars, too. The blogroll can be found right here.