These days, it can be easy to forget that spring’s seasonal fruits are now here. We’re encouraged to minimize our trips to the grocery store, farmers markets are still closed, and the focus is on replenishing our homes with less perishable foods. While this all makes sense, let’s not forget to bring home the fresh seasonal fruits that are waiting for us. In an effort to help minimize the food waste that is currently happening, to support our agricultural system, and to help maintain a sense of normalcy. Plus, seasonal fruits are also delicious.
Roasted Apricot & Pistachio Bars are this weekend’s baking project. May is the start of apricot season and it’s hard to resist these petite blushing orange fruits. Apricots tend to have a bad reputation for being either overly sweet or too tart, but when ripe they’re just the right amount of sweet with a hint of tartness. Their flavor really shines when baked, so here they’re tossed with a bit of sugar and vanilla bean, then rested on a buttery crust and topped with vibrant pistachios. Vanilla bean pairs especially well with cooked fruits, but if you don’t have one it’s ok to omit it. As the apricots roast, they become ultra-tender with the final bars resulting in a rich sweet flavor with a punch of tartness. A cross between a pie and a cookie, it leaves one with the same comforting feeling and taste of both. When selecting apricots, choose ones that are bright orange and slightly soft. For ones that are still too firm, let them sit out on the kitchen counter for a couple of days until ripe. Seasonal fruit pastries happen to be a favorite a mine (it’s what initially inspired this blog). They’re comforting and warm; all the things that we need right now.
Roasted Apricot & Pistachio Bars
Makes 16 bars
1 ½ sticks (12 tablespoons / 169g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (103g) sugar
1/3 cup (63g) light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon pistachios, finely chopped
10 (1 ½ lbs / 681g) apricots, pitted and quartered
3 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
Preheat the oven to 375F (190C). Line an 8-by-8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper and lightly spray with nonstick cooking oil spray.
To prepare the crust, combine butter, sugars, salt, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. On medium speed, beat for 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Stop and scrape down the bowl. Add the flour and mix until incorporated and dough becomes sandy in texture (careful not to overmix the dough or the crust will be tough). Transfer one third of the dough into a clean bowl and press it into small clumps with your fingers. Place into the freezer to chill.
Press the remaining dough evenly over the bottom of the prepared baking pan. With a fork, prick the dough all over (this will prevent the dough from puffing up during baking). Bake the crust for 18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and set on rack to cool while the apricot filling is being prepared.
In a large bowl, combine apricots, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and vanilla bean seeds. Spread the apricot filling evenly over the crust and crumble the reserved dough over the filling. Sprinkle the top with more sugar and pistachios. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until lightly golden and apricot filling is bubbling. Remove from oven and set on rack to cool completely. Transfer bars onto a cutting board and cut into squares. Bars are best enjoyed the day that they’re made.