Apricot squares: almost a French pastry | VailDaily.com

Apricot squares: almost a French pastry

Vera Dawson
Summit Daily/Kristin Anderson

Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado High Country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.Hum “La Marseillaise” while serving these apricot squares and people will feel certain that they’re savoring a French pastry. The combination of a rich, buttery crust, walnut topping, and intense apricot filling is very European.But the similarity ends there; these delicacies are much faster and easier to make than anything you’ll find in a bakery in Paris. If you prepare them in a food processor, you can have them in the oven in about 15 minutes. Making them with an electric mixer takes a bit longer, but they still come together quickly.Because of their rich taste and elegant texture, these pastries can be served as a full-fledged dessert as well as a cookie. When I use them to end a meal, I cut them in larger pieces than those in the photograph and serve them warm with a little sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Coupled with a cup of good coffee, they are quite a lovely last course.Delicious on the day they are made, they can also be stored in the refrigerator for one or two days. They can be frozen, though their texture is not as light when defrosted as it is when it is fresh. Be sure to bring them to room temperature or warm them before serving.

Make in a 9×9 inch metal baking pan Ingredients:1 1/3 cups of all purpose flour 2/3 cup of granulated sugar 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon of salt 12 tablespoons of unsalted butter (one and one half sticks), cold if making in a food processor, room temperature if making with an electric mixer 2 large egg yolks 1 1/14 teaspoons of vanilla 1/2 cup of apricot preserves 3/4 cup of chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Line the 9×9 inch baking pan with Reynold’s Release non-stick aluminum foil or with regular aluminum foil. If you are using regular aluminum foil grease it or spray it with a vegetable oil and flour spray. Extend the foil beyond the pan on two sides so you can utilize it as handles to remove the pastry after it is baked. Make the dough in either a food processor or with an electric mixer. In a food processor – Put the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of the processor and pulse until mixed. Cut the cold butter into 12 pieces and add them, pulsing until the mixture looks like course meal, with some pieces of the butter remaining about the size of peas. Stop the machine and add the egg yolks and the vanilla. Then pulse until the dough forms clumps. With an electric mixer – Cream the room-temperature butter and the sugar until it is light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and the vanilla and mix until well- blended. In a small bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon and salt. Add this to the butter mixture and blend on low speed until the dough is evenly moistened and forms clumps.

Press all but one-fourth of the dough into the bottom of the pan, leveling it so it makes an even bottom for the pastry. If the apricot preserves are cold, warm them so they spread easily. Spread them all over the dough in the pan. Crumble the remaining dough evenly over the preserves, then sprinkle the chopped walnuts over this topping. Bake until the top is golden brown and the preserves are bubbling. This took about 22 minutes in my oven. Remove the pan to a cooling rack and let the pastry cool completely. Lift it out of the pan, using the aluminum foil as handles. Cut it into squares. Reheat the squares in the oven or microwave until they are just warm to the touch ( they are at their best at this temperature). Don’t overheat them or the jam will get too liquefied and run. They are also good served at room temperature. This is a variation of a recipe from Gourmet Magazine.Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at veradawson@aol.com.

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