The annual Hampton Classic Horse Show is history. This season-ending spectacle is the punctuation mark on our summer season. And we love it even if it marks the end of a wonderful summer here. Of course, the focus is on the horses and their riders. This year’s winning rider was Canada’s Mario Deslauriers who won the $300.000.00 DOHA Grand Prix, the Grand Finale of the week-long Classic. I managed to catch Bardolino and his rider just as they negotiated the first jump. It was directly in front of “our” table. I should say The Bridgehampton Florist’s table. It’s the annual extravaganza our dear friends Michael and Jim create. They too were winners at the Classic. Their extraordinary table decorations were selected by Cottages and Garden’s magazine. They won Second Prize for an absolute knockout display. Their Blue and White Chinese porcelain displayed oceans of gorgeous flowers. We have no idea who won First prize because nothing came close to being as beautiful. Just look at these pictures and you’ll understand what I mean…
There was another winner much closer to home. Andrew’s latest baking sensation, Rosemary Apricot Squares were a huge hit. Nothing comes close to the incredible array of Cookies, Brownies and Bars Andrew makes. After a lunch of Lobster Salad, Curried Chicken Salad, Green Pea and Potato salads, Andrew’s desserts make their appearance. (There are links right after today’s recipes to all his goodies from past Classics). This year’s new entry was one he’s wanted to bake for quite some time. Whenever Andrew gets a new baking book, out come the post-its and onto his favorite recipes they go. Today’s recipe is from “Baked Explorations” (Stewart Tabori & Chang 2009). The post-it on this one is literally faded. Not because Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito haven’t been Andrew’s dear companions in the kitchen many times before. (You can find lots of their recipes on these pages using the search function.)
Today’s recipe for Rosemary Apricot Bars is an amazing combination of sweet with savory. It’s a triple-deckered dessert with a mild rosemary short crust, a sweet and tangy apricot filling topped with a crumbly topping. It may sound like an unlikely combination of ingredients to put together but it’s spectacularly good. Even Matt Lewis himself was a little leery when presented with his first taste of the squares by two young bakers, Eric Wolitzky and Patrick Panella. The two worked at Baked, Lewis and Poliafito’s bakery in Red Hook, Brooklyn (359 Van Brunt St. Brooklyn NY 11231 (Tel: 212.775.0345 or firstname.lastname@example.org). But all doubts about the flavor combination disappear with the first bite.
Like most great things that come from Andrew’s oven, there’s a bit of time involved in baking these treats. That’s not to say they’re difficult to make. There a just several steps involved. There’s the Rosemary short crust to be made, the apricot filling to be cooked and pureed, the crumble topping to put together. Finally, there’s the assembly that completes these scrumptious treats. And it’s all worthwhile, especially for something that can be served at breakfast or afternoon tea or after dinner. Here is the recipe with one change from the original: Matt Lewis called for using California apricots for their tang-y, apricot-y flavor. Andrew couldn’t find them here on the East Coast so he went with Turkish Apricots—not that anyone noticed.
Rosemary Apricot Squares
A savory-sweet combination that perks up the breakfast table, your afternoon tea or coffee or finishes up your family dinner.
- For the Rosemary Short-Dough
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed 1/2-inch and room temperature
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- For the Apricot Filling
- 2 cups dried California apricots
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons brandy
- 1 1/2 cups water
- Pinch of salt
- For the Crumb Topping
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon old-fashion oats
- 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
- Pinch salt
- 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed 1/2-inch
- Step 1 Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper with an overhang of the parchment paper on two sides.
- Step 2 Pre-bake Rosemary Short Crust.
- Step 3 In a medium bowl, which together the flour, salt, and rosemary. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla at medium speed until the mixture is fluffy. Adjust the mixer to its lowest speed and add flour mixture. Scrape the dough into prepared pan and press it into an even layer. Place pan in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Step 4 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the short crust until golden, about 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan half-way through baking time. Cool the pan/baked short crust.
- Step 5 Prepare Apricot Filling
- Step 6 Place apricots, sugar, honey, brandy, salt and water in a medium saucepan and simmer over low heat for 45-60 minutes, or until the apricots are tender to touch with a fork and most of the liquid has evaporated or thickened into a syrup (see image above). Remove pan from heat and stir mixture to release excess steam. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes. Transfer apricot mixture with it’s syrup to a food processor and purée until smooth.
- Step 7 Make the Crumb Topping
- Step 8 In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, pecans and salt. Mix on low speed for 10-15 seconds. Add butter and mix until mixture resembles sandy crumbs (you can also do this with a fork/pastry cutter instead of pulling out your mixer).
- Step 9 Assemble Squares
- Step 10 Spread the apricot filling over the baked shortbread. Sprinkle the crumb topping over filling. Bake until 20-25 minutes, or until the crumb topping has browned (see my notes above about quick broiling). Let the pastry cool for at least 30 minutes in the pan before lifting it out of the pan. Use the parchment paper side overhang to easily pull out.
- Step 11 Cut into even sized squares and serve!
- Step 12 Store Rosemary Apricot Squares in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
We took Joanne Chang, John Barricelli and Alice Medrich to the Hampton Classic. And Andrew’s take on their Fig Newtons, Pecan Squares, Brownie Bites and Salted Chocolate Chunk cookies were the hit of the party.