Sunday, November 27
I hope that everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. Welcome to the crazy days of shopping, parties, hair-pulling, 48-hour coffee benders and, best of all, eating. Ready the antacids!
Last week, for Thanksgiving, someone requested brownies from a box. (I won't name names, but we share the same parents!). Honestly, I have nothing against dry, instant, boxed up + shelved desserts; really. My college roommate and I used to make insta-brownies and cookies-in-a-tube all the time (most of those cookies never saw the light of an oven).
Now, if all I need to do is empty a mix into a bowl with some oil and an errant egg or two, I feel like I'm cheating (not that this prevents me from licking the bowl, anyway!!).
I like to *work* for a dessert. I need to chop chocolate, melt things...anything; over a double boiler, whisk dry ingredients, beat butter; all the beautiful steps that go into creating something exquisite. To make up for the pseudo-brownies, I also made goat-cheese brownies - which I promise to share later later this week! (They were amazing, trust me.)
Because I was craving something fruity, and because I love anything with a buttery crumb topping, I made these luscious apricot bars. They're homey, messy, and the perfect thing to snack on whilst thinking about all the damage you did on Thanksgiving and all the stuff you have to do in the next few weeks. Don't worry, you know you stress out every year for no reason. Everything somehow always falls into place at the last minute. :-)
Apricot Coconut Bars (adapted from Martha Stewart)
2 1/4 cups (11 ounces) blanched almonds, very finely ground
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (that's 3 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into bits (just small enough to work into some dry ingredients)
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut (sweetened)
1 3/4 cups apricot jam (feel free to use any kind of jam you want!)
Preheat the oven to 350. Line a *15-by-10-inch rimmed baking sheet with foil, leaving a 1-inch overhang (this will make them easier to remove from the pan), butter the foil and set the pan aside. *If you don't have a 15x10-inch pan, you can use a 9x13-inch pan instead. Just be sure to increase the baking time by about 5-7 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together ground almonds, flour, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry blender or the tips of your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. You're aiming for pea-size clumps (they don't have to be uniform). Once the butter has been incorporated, toss in the coconut. Mix until it's evenly dispersed.
Scatter half of the crumbly mixture into prepared baking sheet. Cover the mixture with a sheet of parchment paper and, using the back of a large spoon, press the dough evenly into pan, lifting the parchment occasionally to ensure it doesn't stick. If you have a small rolling pin, roll along the length of the pan to smooth it out. A can of soup will work too, just be sure the dough is packed firmly and that there are no cracks or holes. Bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until lightly golden. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
Once the crust has cooled, spread an even layer of jam over the entire surface, leaving about a 1/4-inch border of bare crust along the edges (the jam will spread as it's baking). Scatter with remaining crumb mixture, squeezing some of the mixture so that large clumps are visible and evenly distributed over the top of the jam.
Bake for 20-22 minutes (25-27 minutes, if using a 9x13-inch pan). Rotate halfway through. The crumb topping should be a deep golden brown. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Use the foil overhang to gently lift the bars out of the pan and cut into squares or rectangles. (Or, if you're having a bad day, just grab a fork and go to town.)