These award winning bars from my dear friend Kelli Abrahamian will blow you away with a very unique combination of flavors only one of the most creative, free flowing, heartfelt, and excellent bakers I know could come up with. Kelli moved back to California in July after living in Minnesota for 20 years and I sure do miss her. We connect nearly everyday, thanks in part to this wonderful online world, which is where we first crossed paths. I decided to do this post in letter format – hope you don’t mind.
As you’re probably making a proper breakfast with French Press coffee, maybe some fresh baked cinnamon rolls or your great huevos rancheros with fresh corn tortillas from the lady just down your palm tree lined street, I’m in the midst of making your rosemary apricot bars that just admit it, are making waves across the U.S. :) First you won the Minnesota Food Blogger’s Great Bar Bake Off with these babies, then you landed a featured spot in the Kowalski’s seasonal magazine with them, and now the L.A. TIMES! Yes ladies and gentlemen, if you haven’t heard, these bars were just named top 10 bars of the Christmas season in this newspaper. I can’t even imagine how excited you are to get to tour their test kitchen. Gosh, take every moment of it in – you’ve earned this.
I’m experimenting with a gluten free version so I can enjoy my first bite of them ever. (To replicate the buttery shortbread layer made with all purpose flour, I’m using a mix of brown & white rice flours, as well as tapioca starch.) I’ve heard the ooh’s and ahh’s of all those who’ve tried and now if this goes well, I’ll be rejoicing! The shortbread layer is in the oven and the apricot filling is simmering away on the stove. I adapted a few things to work with what I had in my pantry – just as I know you would do :) Instead of regular brandy as you call for, I threw in some of the brandy that has been infusing my boozy cherries since August – oh yes……! It evokes memories of this summer when we spent a day together canning preserves and we used the phrase, “Ah, it’ll be fine” several times and our Rhubarb Habernero Barbecue Sauce was born.
So far so good at this stage in the game. I just took a spoonful of the apricot filling to check it’s sweetness level, oh do I love stewed fruit…I was thinking how good it might be layered in between brie cheese with chopped almonds and then baked for a party appetizer?! Okay – focus Amanda. – The topping is now finished; the oven ready to work some magic. I was getting worried while making that final layer that it wasn’t going to get coarse crumbles like one made with regular flour, but it did – it just took a little longer to come together. Alright,here we go….time will tell!
I’m having a hard time letting them cool – I just want to dig in to see if my gluten free experiment worked! Fine, I’ll do some laundry, clean up the bomb I’ve made in the kitchen as usual, and cheat a little by setting them outside in the Minnesota winter air. (one advantage!)
I’m one bite in and I’m floored. Seriously – you’re a genius girl. The shortbread layer is divine! The rosemary offsets the sweetness from the apricot, and the lemon zest in the backround brightens them perfectly. Accompanied by a dainty cup of tea served in one of the gorgeous sets you gave me made this my afternoon delight.
Kelli, even though we may be thousands of miles apart, I think of you my dear friend every day. I can’t wait to make these for my next dinner party and spread a little bit of your magic to a few more people.
Love, Amanda xo
Makes one 9 x 9 inch pan
*For the gluten free all purpose flour mix I combined 230 grams superfine brown rice flour plus 115 grams each superfine white rice flour & tapioca flour/starch (they are the same) plus 1/2 t xantham gum . This is more than needed for the recipe so you can have extra on hand.*
9 T butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 c powdered sugar
180 g gluten free flour mix (equal to 1 1/2 c all purpose flour)
3/4 t salt
1 t pure vanilla
1 1/2 t finely chopped rosemary
zest of one lemon
1 3/4 c dried apricots
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/3 c water
2 T brandy
2 T agave nectar (or honey)
1/2 c granulated sugar
60 g gluten free flour mix
1/2 c packed brown sugar
3 T chilled butter, cut into cubes
1/3 c chopped pecans or almonds (toasted slightly)
pinch of salt
Line a 9 inch baking pan with foil and butter the inside of the pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a mixer, make the shortbread dough by creaming together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the salt, vanilla, lemon zest and rosemary until combined. Slowly add the flour to the mixture. Lightly flour your hands and press dough into prepared pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 min. before baking. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly brown about 25 min. Let cool to room temp.
Combine all of the apricot filling ingredients in a heavy bottom pan. Simmer for 45 min, until most of the liquid is absorbed into the apricots. Let cool and then puree in a food processor until smooth. Spread cooled apricot mixture on the cooled shortbread.
Make crumb topping by adding all of the topping ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer. Use the paddle attachment and combine until it all starts to clump together. (make take up to a few minutes)
Top the apricot layer with crumb topping and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 to 28 min. and topping is browned. Remove and let completely cool in the pan.