Rosemary Apricot Squares

Sometimes I think I enjoy making sweet treats more than eating them.  If I have to choose between the charcuterie tray and the petits fours, the savory will always win.  So when I came across this recipe in my newest cookbook, I didn’t think twice.  It was a must-try.  This bar cookie is a combination of savory and sweet flavors with crunchy and chewy textures; something for everyone.  You make a shortbread base, enhanced with the piney fragrance of rosemary, spread it with a thick, sweet-tart apricot filling, and crumble on a brown sugar and pecan topping.  It’s a perfect breakfast or snack pastry, and I’m sure you could take it to the dinner table, with a scoop of good quality ice cream alongside.

Rosemary Apricot Squares
(makes 9 large bars)
Rosemary Short Dough
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Apricot Filling
2 cups dried California apricots* (about 8 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons brandy
pinch of salt
Crumb Topping
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Lightly spray a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and line it with parchment paper, allowing the parchment to overhang on two sides.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and rosemary.  In the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla at medium speed until fluffy, approximately 2 minutes.  Turn the mixer to the lowest speed and stream in the flour mixture.  Scrape the dough into the prepared pan, lightly flour your clean hands, and press it into an even layer.  Place the pan in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Bake the short crust until it is golden, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time.  Cool the pan on a wire rack.  Leave the oven on.  Place the apricots, sugar, honey, brandy, and salt in a medium saucepan with 1 1/2 cups of water 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.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir the mixture to release excess steam.  Scrape the apricot mixture into a food processor and puree until smooth.  In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, pecans, and salt.  Mix on low speed for 15 seconds.  Add the butter and mix until a sandy crumb begins to form, about 1 minute.
To assemble the squares:  Spread the apricot filling over the shortbread, then sprinkle the crumb topping over the filling.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crumb has browned.  Let the pastry cool for at least 30 minutes in the pan, then lift it out using the parchment paper overhang and cut it into bars.  The bars can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 days.
*California apricots tend to be more flavorful than other types of dried apricots
(from “Baked Explorations” by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)

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