Saturday, January 29, 2011

Apricot Lemon Bars with Hazelnut Crust

Sometimes a few words explain it all. This time, I'm telling my tale with a limerick. Suffice it to say, the addition of apricot to a timeless classic dessert deserves a round of applause.

Apricot Lemon Bar Limerick
by Happy Go Marni

There once was a famous treat:
The lemon bar you thought couldn't be beat.
Then apricot was added
And my tushy was padded
From eating the whole cookie sheet!

Apricot Lemon Bars with Hazelnut Crust
Adapted from a recipe by Alice Medrich in Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies
Makes 16 large (2-inch) bars or 25 smaller bars

Note: Feel free to swap out the hazelnuts in the crust with walnuts, toasted almonds, or another nut.

For the crust:
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1.25 ounces) toasted and skinned hazelnuts
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the topping:
1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (5.5 ounces) apricot preserves
1/3 cup strained fresh lemon juice
2 to 3 tablespoons powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square metal baking pan with foil.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven.

To make the crust:
In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and nuts. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the melted butter and the vanilla and pulse just until the dry ingredients are moistened and the mixture begins to form a ball. Remove the dough and knead it on your work surface for about 30 seconds, until the mixture is well combined.

Pour the dough into the bottom of the pan and press it evenly with the back of a spoon or your fingers so that it is even thickness across the bottom. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the crust is golden in the center, well browned on the edges, and no part looks undercooked.

To make the topping:
While the crust is baking, it's the perfect time to prepare the fruit layer! In a large bowl, stir together the sugar and flour until well combined. Add the eggs and whisk to combine. Stir in the preserves and if you see any large chunks of fruit, break them up. Stir in the lemon juice. When the crust is done, turn the oven down to 300 degrees F. Take the crust out of the oven and pour the filling over the hot crust. Return to the oven.

Bake for 20 to 25 more minutes. You'll know it's done if you tap the pan and the fruit layer does not jiggle like jello; it should be firm. Cool completely on a wire rack in the pan.

When you're ready to serve the bars, lift up the foil that lined the pan and transfer it to a cutting board. Cut the bars with a long sharp knife into squares. If you want, sift powdered sugar over the bars (but don't do this ahead of time; do it just before you serve the bars - or buy non-melting powdered sugar from King Arthur Flour). Store the bars in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Step-by-Step in Pictures
To make the crust, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and nuts in a food processor...

Pulse till the nuts are finely ground...

Add the butter and vanilla...

Mix until the ingredients are moistened and begin to form a ball...

Press the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan...

Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes, until the crust is golden...

To make the apricot lemon layer, first combine the sugar and flour...
Whisk in the eggs...
Stir in the apricot preserves and break up any large chunks...
Stir in the lemon juice...
Pour the mixture over the hot crust...

Return to the oven and bake at 300 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes...

To cut the cooled bars, lift the foil lining out of the pan and place on a cutting board. Dust with powdered sugar if desired...

Cut into squares and enjoy!


Lisa said...

I love how you've amped up the regular average lemon bars and turned them into something truly special. These look and sound delicious. I have a huge linky party going on at my blog right now specifically for sweet treats and I'd like to invite you to stop by and link this up.

Mom said...

Love the limerick! Just picked 100 Meyer lemons from our tree. I'll have to make this recipe! Great timing!! First, I need to hurry and finish up my lemon meringue pie so I can get to your recipe! :-)

Carolyn Jung said...

What a great idea with the apricots. I love a good lemon bar, but sometimes you do want to jazz it up a little. With apricots, you get that fab interplay of colors, too.

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