I have a confession to make. I was a little bit nervous about making these Rosemary Apricot Bars. I ate one at Baked a couple of years ago and fell in love with them, but I wasn’t sure how other people would feel. Apricot and rosemary isn’t really an obvious dessert choice. So, given my apprehension, I was pleasantly surprised when person after person (at my sister's wedding shower) came up to me to tell me how much they liked them!! Woo hoo! They really are good. With just the right amount of tang and not too much sweetness, they are the perfect bar for when you want to make a dessert that makes you feel, just a little bit, like a grown-up.
Rosemary Apricot Squares from Baked Explorations
For the rosemary short dough
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 ½ teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes, at room temperature
½ cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the apricot filling
2 cups dried California apricots (about 8.5 ounces)
½ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons brandy
For the crumb topping
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
Make the rosemary short dough
Lightly spray a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and line it with parchment paper to just overhang on two side.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and rosemary. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the confectioners' sugar and vanilla at medium speed until fluffy, approximately 2 minutes. Turn the mixer to the lowest speed and stream in the flour mixture. Scrape the dough into the prepared pan, lightly flour your clean hands, and press it into an even layer. Place the pan in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Bake the dough until it is golden 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. Cool the pan on a wire rack, leaving the oven on.
Make the apricot filling
Place the apricots, sugar, honey, brandy, and salt in a medium saucepan with 1½ cups water and simmer over low heat for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the apricots are fork-tender and most of the liquid has evaporated or thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the mixture to release the excess steam. Scrape the apricot mixture into a food processor and puree until smooth.
Make the crumb topping
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, pecans and salt. Mix on low speed for 15 seconds. Add the butter and mix until a sandy crumb begins to form, about 1 minute. (At this point, the crumb topping can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use.)
Assemble the rosemary apricot bars
Spread the apricot filling over the shortbread, then sprinkle the crumb topping over the filling. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crumb has browned. Let the pastry cool for at least 30 minutes in the pan, then lift it out using foil overhang and cut it into bars. The bars can be stored in refrigerator, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 days.