Finally, a more recently made treat. I went on a solid 3-month hiatus from baking to try and have less temptation laying around the apartment. Our pre-wedding healthy eating habits went out the window during our honeymoon trip to Big Sur and Napa. It was the weekend after we got back from our honeymoon, and I had the biggest hankering to bake something. With it being summer (my favorite time of the year to make desserts), I thought I’d give this recipe a try.
Pistachio is hands down my favorite flavor in both sweet and savory dishes, and it had been a while since I last whipped up a pistachio dessert I really liked. I had never had anything with fresh apricots before, but I’ve taken a real liking to minced dried apricots in my stews or with some plain oatmeal. I saw this recipe on the ever-faithful Smitten Kitchen and had to give it a whirl:
- 1 C all-purpose flour
- 1/4 t table salt
- 1/4 C granulated sugar
- 1/2 C (or one stick) unsalted butter, cold is fine
- 3/4 C shelled unsalted pistachios
- 1 tablespoon (10 grams) all purpose flour
- Few pinches of sea salt
- 6 T sugar
- 5 T unsalted butter, cold is fine
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 t almond extract (vanilla extract will work too, but almond extract really tastes the best for this recipe)
- 1 pound firm-ripe apricots
- Heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper and trim each to fit the 8-inch width of an 8×8-inch square baking pan (I used my handy dandy Pyrex). Press it into the bottom and sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, perpendicular to the first sheet.
- Make the crust: Combine the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Cut the butter into chunks, and add it to the bowl, then run the machine until the mixture forms large clumps. It should take 30 seconds or so for it to come together.
- Transfer the dough clumps to your prepared baking pan and press it evenly across the bottom and 1/4-inch up the sides. Bake for 15 minutes, until very pale golden. For the sake of speed, transfer to a cooling rack in your freezer for 10 to 15 minutes while you prepare the filing.
- Make the filling: In your food processor bowl (which does not need to be washed between these steps), grind your pistachios, sugar, flour and salt together until the nuts are powdery. Cut the butter into chunks and add it and the egg and flavorings to the machine. Run the machine until no chunks of butter are visible.
- Spread the filling over mostly cooled (warm is okay but hopefully the freezer will have firmed the base enough so you can spread something over it) crust. Cut the apricots in half (or, you might find that you can tear them open at the seams with your fingers) and remove pits. From here, you have a few decoration options: you can place the apricot halves in facedown or up all over the pistachio base. You can do as I did, which is cut them into strips, then slide each cut half onto a butter knife or offset spatula, tilt it so that it fans a little, and slide it onto your pistachio filling decoratively. (With this method, I ended up not using all of my apricots.) You could also arrange the strips like petals of flower around the pan, like the apple tart I did a few years ago).
- Bake the bars for 60 minutes, or until they are golden and a toothpick inserted into the pistachio portion comes out batter-free. This might take up to 10 minutes longer depending on the juiciness of your apricots and the amount you were able to nestle in. Let cool completely in pan; you can hasten this along in the fridge.
- Cut bars into squares. Chilled bars cut with a sharp knife will give you the cleanest cuts. Keep leftover bars chilled.
Hands down the most hideous looking thing I’ve ever made. Ever.
But as tasty as they were ugly!