I have never met an apricot I liked. To me they are the red-headed step-sister to the beloved almond, cherry, nectarine, peach and plum. They are the misfit drupes (yes, I googled that). Maybe it's cruel of me to label them as such, but I don't know why they have to be all musky and tart tasting. Why can't they just fall into line and be sweet and juicy like their brothers and sisters?
I am aware that I really should try to like these little fellows and that most people do. They are pretty little things after all, not to mention good for me - chock full of vitamins and other essential nutrients. Let me try again just to make sure....
** (paused for apricot tasting) **
Nope, I still don't like 'em (sigh)....maybe they will taste better cooked?
I hesitate to even mention this so fresh off my apricot tirade, but... I don't like rosemary either. Too woodsy tasting for me. I know! I know! Totally annoying, right? Come Thanksgiving I am a giant pain in the a** to please. Maybe if I mince the rosemary into fine, minute pieces it will somehow subdue the flavor.
Wait a second, things are looking up. Honey? Pecans? Now we are talking! I knew Matt & Renato weren't trying to purposefully crush my baking spirits...maybe there is hope for this recipe yet.
Things really are looking up! The finely minced rosemary smelled lovely and baked wonderfully into the golden shortbread crust, and the flecks of herbs were a nice, subtle contrast. (As a side note, I only had an 8x8-inch pan, so I had to bake the shortbread crust for a little longer and it came out a little thinker than if I had used the called for 9x9-inch pan.)
It is amazing what can happen while cooking. Add a little honey, water and brandy to the dried apricots, give them a little heat, and voila, beautiful things can be achieved. The result: tender, juicy apricots bursting with color. Oh, how I wish I liked them so. How can something that looks so wonderful taste so awful to me?
You know what I do love? I love little surprises. I am not talking about surprise parties (in fact, I am not a fan of these whatsoever), but rather unexpected events like running into a familiar face in a foreign city, winning $5 on a scratch-off lotto ticket or, even better, receiving an impromptu love song from your kids. I love it when I am certain things are going to go one way, and then BAM!, I am wrong. Well, case in point. These were not inedible as I had imagined. I did not gag, nor did I have to hold my nose to swallow a bite (I never do this, but I witness my kids doing it all the time). Instead, I took a bite, and then another, and then another. How could this be?
I'll tell you how... baking magic! The musky flavor of the apricot vanished while cooking and was replaced with a sweet, mellow flavor. The rosemary shortbread crust was light and perfectly textured without being overpowering. It provided the savory piece of this dessert in a perfectly subtle way. And, while my pecan crumb topping didn't fair in appearance as well as Matt & Renato's did, it was a wonderfully delicious addition. Altogether, it was a delight! The flavors were made for each other... it truly was a wonderful surprise.
These bars would be just as perfectly suited to conclude a dinner party as they would at a bake sale. They have a unique and delicious sweet and savory flavor profile that I simply adore. I have added them to my sacred stash of recipes (you know, the 3-ring binder of your favorites you keep under lock and key), and I will make them again and again.
Apparently, I have befriended the apricot :)
Yes, I know. I missed my deadline. I should have posted this last Sunday, but the summer crazies have begun. I will try to be more timely in the future :) Also, please check out what my fellow club members thought of this recipe over at Baked Sunday Morning, they are quite a talented group :)
Have a Sweet Sunday!
Jaime @ The Great Cake Company