As usual, I’m posting pretty late. The Christmas cookie storm has long been replaced by black eyed pea soups for the new year and vegan dips to help maintain resolutions, but this was the second year I made these bars for my family and this year my dad declared that they would have to become a holiday tradition.
My family doesn’t have a lot of recipe traditions. (Discovering the truth about the date balls I grew up thinking my grandmother made every time I visited coming crashing down when she permanently retired from cooking, but the date balls kept coming, brought this to light recently) So instating a cookie, or bar really, as a “family tradition” meant a lot to me. It probably had a lot to do with a few key ingredients that make this decadent dessert perfect for my intestinally challenged family: The original recipe I found called for gluten free flour. I have since become gluten free and so have tried it both ways. Notes on gluten-free flour follow but this was a huge plus for us this year. Also the recipe has always called for a drizzle of chocolate over the top. I have always intended to do this, get all the way through cooking, and realize how frickn good they are without chocolate. My dad, who is allergic to chocolate has always very much appreciated this last minute laziness and now that’s just how they are for me. Beyond that, almonds, apricots and cranberries smothered in gooey caramel? You really can’t go wrong.
So if they’re a family tradition they’re never really too late to share, right? I’m really just super early for next year. Or maybe I’ll make a batch for Valentine’s Day.
*gluten-free flour: I am still hoping to find the particular flour mix that magically can be seamlessly substituted for gluteny flour leaving cookies chewy, biscuits fluffy, and no one the wiser, but I haven’t found it. I like King Arthur’s Gluten Free Flour Mix a lot, but for this recipe used an Arrowhead Mills mix. It worked surprisingly well for the lobster pot pie we made but was pretty crumbly for this recipe. Make sure to chill the bars completely before you cut them to help with this problem.
Apricot Cranberry Florentine Bars
(adapted from Sweet Twist of Blogging)
3/4 cup (a stick and a half) butter
3 egg yolks, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup gluten free or AP flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp orange zest
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup honey
1 cup sliced almonds
½ cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
½ cup dried apricots
1 tsp orange zest
For the Crust
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 10 inch square pan with parchment paper and spray with non stick spray. Make sure the parchment reaches all the way up the sides of the pan.
Beat together butter and egg yolks until combined in a stand mixer. Add brown sugar and 1tsp zest and beat until light and creamy. Add flour and salt and blend until just combined.
Press the dough in to the pan. If you use gluten-free flour it will be extremely sticky, just stick with it, show it who’s boss. Bake crust 15 minutes, or until golden, remove from oven and let cool.
For the Filling
Heat butter, sugar, cream and honey over medium heat. Continue to cook until a candy thermometer reaches 240F, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in almonds, zest and dried fruit. Pour over cooled crust. Bake another 15 minutes.
Allow bars to cool completely before cutting. I left mine in the fridge for a bit just to make sure the gooey deliciousness is solid enough to keep the crust together when you cut through it. If you can remove the sheet of bars by pulling up on the parchment paper this will really help with the cutting process, but cutting in the pan is fine too, just be careful not to peel up the parchment too!