Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Apricot Pistachio Squares

In my Yogurt Marinated Chicken Kebobs with Aleppo Pepper post, I told you about a delicious and simply gorgeous dessert that Foodie made for that evening.  She follows the blog called, smittenkitchen and one visit to the blog, you will see why it is widely followed and read.  The post with this recipe has, as of this writing, 161 comments, one hundred and sixty one!!  The recipes are unique, the stories and the writing are entertaining (I chuckled a few times) and the photos are quite beautiful.  Kind of like the blog my blog wants to be when it’s no longer a kid (it’s only four years old).

Maybe I need to go the BlogHer Conference next year for inspiration.

Anyway, about a year ago, I made an apricot pistachio cake from one of my favorite food bloggers, Molly Wizenberg.  So when Foodie unveiled her Apricot Pistachio Tart (not yet cut into squares), I gasped not only because her creation was quite fetching visually, but I was also curious to taste a kissing-cousin version of my earlier confection that earned a “who is responsible for this cake” comment from a guest.  I was initially afraid to fess-up but then he uttered the words “it’s delicious.”

I adore pistachios and pairing them with apricots merely doubles the contentment.  The tender and tart apricots complement the green, silky crunchiness of the pistachios so nicely.  And I can’t overstate enough how pretty this tart is — really, it is simply gorgeous.  If you are looking for an elegant and “wow” dessert that will absolutely delight guests at your next dinner party, make this!

Pistachios are native to western Asia but a variety is grown in California that have been modified to enhance the esthetic qualities of the nut…leave it to us to ditch exotic charm for appearance! Legend is that lovers would meet beneath pistachio trees on dreamy, moonlit nights and if they heard the ripening nut shells crack open, it symbolized good fortune for their future. Pistachios can improve blood cholesterol levels and some believe they are an aphrodisiac….perhaps handy while standing under the tree! 

The basics of this recipe would work well with many other fruit/nut combinations.  I love almonds — almost as much as I love pistachios — and an almond pear version would be a delightful way to greet the crisp fall weather.  

Apricot Pistachio Squares

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold is fine

3/4 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Few pinches of sea salt
6 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold is fine
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon almond extract, 2 teaspoons brandy or another flavoring of your choice
1 pound firm-ripe apricots

To finish
Powdered sugar or 1/4 cup apricot jam

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. 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 might take 30 seconds to 1 minute 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, grind your pistachios, sugar, flour and salt together until the nuts are powdery. Cut the butter into chunks and add it to the machine. Run the machine until no buttery bits are visible. Add any flavorings and egg, blending until just combined.

Spread filling over mostly cooled crust. Cut apricots in half 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 also cut the apricots into strips and slide each cut half onto a spatula and place the fanned fruit  in patterns on top of the cake.   KOPO note:  When I baked my pistachio cake, I placed the halved apricots right on top of the batter and the apricots sunk into the baked cake; when sliced, they revealed themselves, like the little sleuths they were just hiding in that cake! 

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. Let cool completely in pan; you can hasten this along in the fridge.

To finish, you can make a shiny glaze for your tart by warming the jam in a small saucepan until it thins, and brushing this mixture over the top of the cooled tart. Or, you can keep it rustic with just a dusting of powdered sugar.  Cut the chilled bars into squares.

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