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Nutty Apricot Bars

My latest food stint has been vegan cooking. It evolved out of my desire to reduce the stress of “ahhh what am I going to do with this quickly expiring milk” and “oh my god i have 16 kinds of cheese let me just eat nothing but cheese for the next week” (really, I make this seem like a bigger problem than it is, because cheese is delicious), and has led to a lotta stir fries, smoothies, and pasta dishes.

Despite my growing confidence in plant-based cooking, there are still times when I turn to my dear friend butter, and this, my friend, is one of them.

These bars are so good. Like, bring-to-a-fancy-dinner-and-watch-anxiously-as-people-take-that-first-bite good. The nutty shortbread base melts in your mouth, and the slight tartness of the apricots is a perfect complement to the lightly sweetened frangipane. And this is coming from someone who is way more of a chocolate than fruit dessert person. (On a side note, I believe there are two type of people: people who prefer fruit desserts and people who prefer chocolate. I refuse to believe that there are people who want neither.)

They’re also incredibly easy to make. Seriously, if you have a food processor (and if you don’t, I highly recommend you get one, because it is one of the few things I am willing to lug across the country to college), all you have to do is throw two sets of ingredients in (at separate times) and whiz away. That, and chop a few apricots, but still, the prep for this recipe is incredibly quick.

My “secret” ingredient for this recipe is premium salted butter. It has a lower water content than regular butter, which makes it perfect for shortbread. Kerrygold butter should be easiest to find, but Trader Joe’s had another brand that was cheaper so I used that. If you can’t find premium butter, don’t worry, regular salted butter works as well.

Nutty Apricot Bars

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 1/2 cup almonds or pecans (I used half of each) [60 g]
  • 1 cup flour [125 g]
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar [50 g]
  • 1/2 cup salted premium butter, or unsalted butter + 1/2 tsp salt [115 g]

Frangipane filling:

  • 1 cup almonds or pecans (I used half of each) [120 g]
  • 1 tbs all purpose flour [10g]
  • 1/4 cup white sugar [50g]
  • 5 tablespoons salted premium butter, or unsalted butter + 1/4 tsp salt [70g]
  • 1 large egg

Toppings:

  • ~6 small apricots
  • 2 tbs sliced almonds

Preparation Process:

Begin by roasting the nuts. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Meanwhile, line an 8 inch square pan with parchment paper. Cut two ~15 inch long pieces of parchment so they are 8 inches wide. Drape one piece in the pan so that it lines 3 sides, and drape the other piece perpendicular so that all sides of the pan are covered.

Add to a food processor:

  • 1/2 cup almonds or pecans (I used half of each) [60 g]
  • 1 cup flour [125 g]
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar [50 g]
  • 1/2 cup salted premium butter, or unsalted butter + 1/2 tsp salt [115 g], cut into 1 tbs piece

Blend until the mixture is beginning to form large clumps. Press the dough into the pan into an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, until the edges are just beginning to darken, and then remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. To speed up the process, put the pan in the freezer.

While the crust is cooling, grind in the food processor until sand consistency:

  • 1 cup almonds or pecans (I used half of each) [120 g]
  • 1 tbs all purpose flour [10g]
  • 1/4 cup white sugar [50g]

Add to the food processor:

  • 5 tablespoons salted premium butter, or unsalted butter + 1/4 tsp salt [70g]

Mix until no butter chunks are visible, then while the food processor is still running, add in:

  • 1 large egg

Pulse until just combined.

When the crust has cooled (I recommend letting it cool fully, or else the butter in the filling will begin to melt), spread the frangipane filling over it.

Top with:

  • ~6 small apricots
  • 2 tbs sliced almonds

I cut the apricots in half, sliced each half into thin pieces, fanned out the slices, and then transferred them to the base on a butter knife.

Bake at 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the bars should come out clean, and the edges of the crust should be deep golden brown, but not burnt.

For the cleanest presentation, allow the bars to cool on the countertop until warm, and then cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator until cold. Remove the bars by pulling up the edges of the parchment.

Slice into 16* squares**, and serve at room temperature.

*The smaller the slices the more you can eat, right?

**A little tip is to slice off the outer edges of the bars before cutting into squares. The crisp edges are perfect for eating like biscotti, and the squares look more uniform sans edges.