Craisen Love Bars

Molly and I are super busy trying to launch a  new niche site.  As we hustle over the next couple weeks to put it together we’re going to pull out some oldie but goodies and lean on some friends for guest posts to fill in around the edges.   This one is a re-post from my first blog- Stuff I Made This Year.

I like Crasins fine, wouldn’t say I loooove them but we’ll get to that later. I didn’t plan on posting so much about food when I decided to start this blog.  I thought I’d be posting about machines and other constructed stuff.  It turns out that making food is a great way to scratch the project making itch for me. Cooking neatly contains all the components I want in a project:

Inspiration- I used to have an hour and twenty minute commute to work each way.  If I didn’t have podcasts to listen to I would go insane.  Lately,  most of my favorites are food related.  Often when I hear someone describing a recipe or dish that sounds delicious I jot it down to try later.

Planning– First, l go to the site where the recipe is and print it out.  I usually scan it for ingredients and technique.  Next, I’ll usually look up a number of similar recipes to see what variations on the theme are out there and think about substitutions if I don’t have/want to get particular ingredients.

Gathering supplies- I like to go out and get supplies for projects.  There is something satisfying about getting all the stuff you need together.  It starts the transition from visualizing to actually making something.

Implementation- I like being in the kitchen.  I only recently made the connection of how similar working in a kitchen is to working in a shop/lab.  The time frame is usually short enough to get something made in a day or less which means I’m more likely to want to take it on.

Results- There is always a finished product when you are making food.  I love to eat delicious things and think about what makes it taste good to me.  Trying new stuff expands my palate and is generally interesting.  It is always nice to share food with others too.

David Liebowitz is a food blogger I have been following for the past few weeks.  He was a pastry chef at Chez Panise and has written several books on making deserts.  I bought The Perfect Scoop, it’s all about making ice cream and other frozen confections, on the suggestion of my sister-in-law. (thanks Yun Joo!)

He lives in Paris now,  seems to travel quite a bit and takes very appetizing pictures of the food he is eating and preparing at the moment.  He recently went to NYC and visited a bakery in Red Hook,  Brooklyn called Baked.

Their products sound fantastic and I like the clean, modern (as in updated mid-century) style of their presentation.  David posted an apricot bar recipe from Baked that he modified somewhat. Although I don’t go out of my way for apricot bars they looked and sounded really appealing to me.

I went out after dinner on a Friday night to get ingredients to make them and abandoned my cart after picking up some fresh rosemary for $3.50 and 3 bags of dried apricots at $4 each.  I really wanted to make these bars but I wasn’t about to spend $16+ just to try them.  I was pacing around the house after I got back home trying to resolve my frugality/spontaneous desire issues.

I didn’t come to any real solution and ended up eating several handfuls of chocolate chips. Two days later we were at Molly’s parents’ house and literally as we were walking out the door I remembered that rosemary is a perennial in Albuquerque.  I scored a couple of sprigs from my mother-in law (a master gardener) and mulled over how to get around the apricot cost issue during the hour drive back from Abq.

By the time we got home I had a solution.  Crasins!  Maybe a little more pedestrian than apricots but they are a tangy dried fruit and more importantly we had them at the house already…….sort of.  I needed two cups but we only had one.  So really I should be calling them Crasin/rasinLove bars.

I also made one other substitution.  David made the addition of lemon zest to the shortbread.  We didn’t have any at home so I used key lime zest.  I actually like it better.  The rosemary & lime in the shortbread really compliment each other without overpowering the other flavors.  The Crasin/rasin filling was tasty and everyone played well together for a very satisfying result.

Rosemary Squares from Baked Exploratons

Apricot bars from David Liebowitz

CraisinLove bars from Mike 

Mike's craisen love bars

(My additions are in blue)

For the rosemary dough:

12 tablespoons (170g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature

1/2 cup (70g) powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract grated zest of half a lemon  or 1 key lime

1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 3/4 cups (250g) flour

For the apricot / Craisin filling:

2 cups (8 ounces, 230g) California dried apricots  or 1 cup Crasins & 1 cup raisins

1 1/2 cups (375ml) water or white wine

1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar

3 tablespoons (60g) honey

2 tablespoons brandy

pinch of salt

For the crumb topping:

1/2 cup (70g) flour 1/2 cup (95g) packed dark brown sugar

1/3 cup (40g) pecans or almonds, coarsely chopped

pinch of salt

3 tablespoons (45g) unsalted butter, cubed, chilled

 

1. Line a 9-inch (23cm) square pan with aluminum foil then butter the insides or spray with cooking spray. (In the original recipe, the authors said to grease the pan then line it with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides of the pan.)

2. Make the rosemary dough by creaming the butter with the powdered sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer, or by hand, until it’s light and fluffy. (3 mins) Add the vanilla,  zest, and rosemary, then gradually add in the 1 3/4 cup (250g) flour, mixing until the dough is smooth.

3. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and pat it flat into the bottom of the pan using lightly floured hands. Refrigerate the dough-lined pan for at least 30 minutes. or freeze for ~15 mins (No need to wash the mixer bowl; you can use it as is for the crumb topping in step #7.)

4. Make the apricot filling by combining the apricots, water (or wine), granulated sugar, honey, brandy, and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Simmer over low heat for about (30-) 45 minutes, or until all the liquid has just about been absorbed. Let cool for a few minutes, stirring, then puree in a food processor (blender) until smooth.

5. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). 6. Baked the rosemary shortbread for 25 to 30 minutes (more like 40 mins at 375 at high altitude), until golden brown. Once baked, let the shortbread cool to room temperature.  You can stick it in the freezer again if you’re in a rush

6. Make the crumb topping by mixing together the 1/2 cup (70g) flour, brown sugar, nuts, salt, and butter in the bowl of the stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, until the mixture just barely starts clumping together.

7. Spread the filling over the shortbread in the pan evenly, then top with the crumb topping and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the topping is browned.

8. Remove from oven and let bars cool completely in pan. To slice, lift the bars out of the pan by grasping the edges of the foil. Slice into squares.

Storage: The bars can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Variation: For those of you wishing to use a different dried fruit(Crasins??), the yield on the apricot paste was 2 cups (about 500g), in case you wish to make a substitution.

Yum Yum Yum

And now for the winner of last weeks Valentine truffle GIVEAWAY!

Drumroll please…..

Tracy M!! 

but wait,  I’ve decided to giveaway a second box of truffles!!!  Our second winner is…

Alyosa from My Broken Coin!!

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This post is part of the  Hearth-n-Soul blog hop. Click on the badge to see all the other participants for this week’s blog hop!  

Hearth-n-Soul Blog Hop

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5 Comments

  1. Posted February 21, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Your crazen love bars look great! Best wishes on your niche site. Shoot me an email when you get your new site up and I will help spread the word.

    • Posted February 22, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Thanks Alea.  It’s so great to know we have supporters!

  2. Mike's Mom
    Posted February 22, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Mike, your musing about cooking awakens a lot of old memories for me.  This seems like a good opening for me to tell your followers that you’ve been creating in the kitchen since about age two.  Remember your early favorite, meat-cheese sandwiches?  Two slices of cheese with a slice of liverwurst in between!  Who needs bread?  Of course that was several years before I started baking my own….

  3. Posted February 22, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe it, I lost TWICE!

    I don’t know if you know, but Baked has two book. I borrowed one from the library, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking And it is AWESOME. My mom made me the salty chocolate cake for my birthday and oh my word.

    And actually there’s another book by David that is also amazing. I borrowed it from the library and it’s called… um….Room for Dessert! I wanted to make pretty much everything. 

    • Posted February 22, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      I love their salted caramel cake. Haven’t made it but it looks really good. There’s a copy of the recipe on Martha Stewart. Someone in the comments has corrections to the recipe. Oh Martha, you can afford the fact checking. You should really do it….

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