Pieces of fresh apricot tucked into squares of a rich, shortbread-style cake. I've been making these bars for more than thirty years!
There's a reason I remembered these oh-so-pretty apricot bars after -- dare I say? -- 30 years: they're that good. There's a reason why they're that good: think butter, think sugar, think something akin to a moist shortbread. Whew. A 50:50 butter:sugar mix I didn't remember.
The apricots have been so lush and juicy this year, I bought them three times before finally hunting up the recipe, a favorite from the year I lived in Finland, though it's not particularly Finnish. My third host mother made these bars with canned apricots so good news, it's a recipe that can be made year-round.
Shocked by the calorie count? Me too, actually. But mine is one of the very few recipe sites (including the big corporate sites like Epicurious) which provides nutrition information with each and every recipe, even for recipes that rack up calories like crazy. I choose to own up to the nutrition impact -- bad and good -- so there's no hiding from it, no getting fooled into thinking, "How bad can it be?" Some times I fear that readers will abandon my sites because calorie information is included for recipes that are clearly an indulgence. But I hope that regular readers appreciate that here, anyway, they'll get the straight, um, skinny.
My first attempt to lower the calorie count per bar was to use apricot quarters, not halves, in order to make smaller squares. It helped a little but also absolutely convinced me that I have got to figure out how to make smaller bars. There's just something remarkable about the soft, barely-cooked tang of apricots against the almond-scented buttery bars.
My next tactic will be to chop fresh or canned apricots (and even moist dried apricots) to mix directly into the batter. The impressive appearance would be lost but smaller bars could be cut.
Refrigerated, a week later these bars are still fresh, moist and flavorful. It's another reason to get this right!
FRESH APRICOT BARS
Time-to-table: 1 hour
Serves 12 or 20
- 1-1/4 cups (2-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1-1/4 cups (325g) sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 2-1/2 cups flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 344g
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- Fresh apricots (halved or quartered) or canned apricots (well-drained), enough to fill the tray
- Icing sugar
Preheat oven to 400F. With an electric mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue beating until light and creamy. One at a time, add the eggs and beat until batter becomes glossy. Add the extract and incorporate.
Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt, add to butter mixture and incorporate fully but do not overbeat.
With your fingers, spread the dough evenly in a well-greased jelly roll pan or a baking sheet with sides, even a 9x13. Arrange apricots cut-side down in rows so that when cut, an apricot half sits in the center of each bar.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked clear through and slightly golden on the edges. Let cool slightly and sprinkle with icing sugar. Any leftovers should be covered and refrigerated.
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