Confession #70: Summer Makes Me Smile… Apricot Bars
I know there’re people out there cursing summer’s 100 degree temperatures right now (in certain areas), but I seriously love summer. I love the warm temperatures, when my body can finally relax after being on edge all winter long. I love that I can wake up in the morning and just throw on a shirt and shorts, instead of a shirt that matches a sweater that goes with my boots and on and on…. I love the sunny skies, the green growing everywhere, the flowers blooming in a rainbow of colors. I love eating ice cream and frozen yogurt and not freezing to death. I love that there are always fresh vegetables from the garden and fresh fruits from the fruit trees, each type turning ripe during its own little slot of time, so for a few weeks, you can enjoy all the apricots or pluots, or figs or whatever it might be that you want. Sure, these things seem simple, but I think that’s why they should be appreciated all the more.
With all of summer’s fresh fruits coming in season, there’s plenty of opportunity to incorporate a new ingredient in your baking, something that you don’t always have on hand to use. Since we still have a lot of apricots here, I decided to use them in these bars, which are kind of like a fig newton-turned fig bar- turned apricot bar. I actually made them for Father’s Day, per special request, so I wanted to make them a bit on the healthier side for my dad. I cut back on some of the unhealthier ingredients, used a combination of whole wheat flour and oat flour, and of course, packed a generous 3 cups of apricots into them. Turns out you wouldn’t even know it, because they’re full of flavor.
The base of these bars has a really deep flavor due to the whole wheat flour and brown sugar, but they manage to stay light at the same time, and maintain a really soft texture. The sweetness is just enough to balance with the tangy apricot filling sandwiched in the middle. Together, it’s a mingling of tangy and sweet, fruity and nutty flavors. We enjoyed these Apricot Bars for breakfast, but they would also be perfect as a light summer dessert. Dad sure liked them, as did we all!
Two soft layers of cookie bar with a nutty, brown sugar flavor are the perfect balance for the tangy, fresh apricot filling stuffed in the middle.
- 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 1/4 cups oat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (4 teaspoons)
- 3 cups halved, pitted apricots
- 1/4 cup honey
- Preheat oven to 350 F and cut a piece of parchment to fit an 9" x 13" baking dish with excess parchment hanging over the sides to use as "handles".
- Whisk together whole wheat flour, oat flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
- In the seperate bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in vanilla with second egg.
- Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and stir in at lowest speed until just combined.
- Set aside 1 cup of the dough and place the remaining on the cut parchment. Place another layer of parchment on top and roll out to the dimensions of your baking dish (9" x 13"). Place the bottom layer of parchment with the rolled out dough into the dish and, using a spatula, push the dough down around the edges of the dish as needed to fit. Place in the preheated oven to bake for 20 minutes, until just turning golden on top.
- Meanwhile, roll out the remaining 1 cup of dough between two sheets of parchment to the same dimensions. Make sure to be precise with this layer, as that will make it easier to place it nicely on top of the apricot filling. I recommend measuring the inner dimensions of your baking dish to help with your precision. Once you have the dough rolled out big enough, you can trim the edges as needed and roll them into the middle of the square of dough so that you're dough ends up being the perfect size for your baking dish, with clean edges. Place the rolled out dough into the freezer for about 30 minutes.
- While the bottom layer of dough is baking and the top layer is chilling, prepare the apricot filling. Puree the apricot halves in a food processor until smooth. Add honey and process in to evenly incorporate. Pour the filling on top of the bottom layer of dough, spreading out evenly, and top with the chilled top layer of dough. Carefully peel back the parchment on the top layer. If a small piece of the dough cracks, don't worry to much about it. If the edge of the dough is climbing up the sides of the baking dish in any spots, gently push it down as you did the with first layer of dough.
- Bake the prepared bars for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out without any dough on it. Cool slightly, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge to cool completely. Once cold, use the "handles" of the parchment to remove the bars from the baking dish, and slice into 24 equal pieces. Enjoy!
Recipe Loosely Adapted From: Brown Eyed Baker, Originally From: America’s Test Kitchen Holiday Cookies (Holiday 2010 New Twists & Family Favorites)
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