I finally finished all eight (!) of the recipes for my upcoming Christmas Cookie class. I have been working on the class off and on for a couple of months...a little more "on" during the past few weeks. (I love cookies, but think I'm ready for a break.) The final recipe was for a cookie that I didn't specify in the class description—Apricot-Almond Streusel Bars.
For the most part the recipes promised in the cookie class description are for little, hand-formed cookies—some with lots of detail work. These are the kinds of cookies that I truly love to make at Christmas. But the time required to make these special little cookies isn't always available. So, for my class, I wanted to be able to offer at least one cookie that had a festive feel and at the same time could be made quickly and easily for a last minute gift or pot-luck party contribution. These Apricot-Almond Streusel Bars fill the bill perfectly. They are simple to make—the same dough is used for the press-in crust and the crumbly topping—and to me, the almond and apricot flavors are very Christmas-y.
Apricot-Almond Streusel Bars
6 oz. dried apricots (1 c. firmly packed), chopped
1/4 c. sugar
1 to 1 1/2 t. lemon juice
12 T. unsalted butter, room temperature (6 oz.)
1/2 c. sugar (100 g.) plus 2 T. sugar (25 g.)
1 egg yolk
1/2 t. almond extract
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. sliced almonds (50 g.)
1/4 c. (packed) almond paste (75 g.)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9x9x2-inch metal baking pan; line bottom and two sides with a strip of parchment paper, extending over sides. Butter parchment. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine the apricots, sugar and water. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook, stirring and mashing the apricots, until the excess liquid has evaporated or been absorbed and the filling is thickened. Stir in lemon juice to taste and set aside to cool. You will have a generous cup of a coarse apricot purée.
While the apricots cook and cool, briefly cream the butter and 1/2 cup of the sugar together until smooth. Beat in the egg yolk and the almond extract. Add the flour and salt and mix until the flour has been absorbed and the mixture is clumpy.
Press remaining dough evenly onto bottom of prepared pan. Place the pan in the middle of the oven and bake until the crust is just set and beginning to turn pale golden along the edges (the dough will puff and then sink)—about 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Adjust the oven rack so it is in the upper third of the oven.
To build the bars, spread the cooled apricot compote over the crust—spreading almost all the way to the edge of the crust. Coarsely grate the almond paste over the apricot. Scatter the chilled streusel evenly over all and press lightly.
Place the pan on the rack in the upper third of the oven and bake until the streusel is tinged with golden brown—about 35 to 40 minutes.
Cool completely in the pan on a rack. Using the parchment paper as an aid, lift the cookies from the pan. Cut into 4 equal strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 8 small bar cookies (or 4 larger cookies).
(Can be prepared ahead. Store in single layer in airtight container at room temperature up to 4 days or freeze up to 2 weeks.) If you like, dredge the finished cookies with some powdered sugar. Makes 32 small (or 16 large) bars.