I love apricots. I love cherries. And I love coconut. These were just the thing to grease up my new toy. They seemed a bit ambitious, given my 9pm start time, and the fact that I would be making my own jam to get to the end point that you see over there on the left. But I just couldn't wait to hear the whir of that paddle. The recipe comes from a book I borrowed from the library, Baking from the Heart. I plan to make many of the things I found inside. The KitchenAid has transformed my formerly lackluster approach to the "creaming" process.
Apricot Cherry Coconut Bars
(Makes one 9 x 13 inch pan or 15 large bars)
1/2 pound dried apricots
1/2 dried unsweetened dried cherries
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
Sweetened whipped cream, optional, for serving
1. Combine apricots, cherries and 2 cups of water in a heavy 2- to 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is very tender, 40-45 minutes. Strain over a bowl and reserve 1/4 cup juice.
2. Return fruit to the pan. With a potato masher, smash it until it is almost smooth. Stir in the reserved juice and 1 cup plus the 2 tablespoons sugar. Bring the puree to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Then cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cool to room temperature.
3. To make the crust, preheat the oven to 400F. Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan with butter or vegetable shortening.
4. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg and whisk to combine.
5. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (yes!), beat the butter on medium speed for 1 minute, or until smooth. Add the sugar and beat on medium speed for 3-4 minutes, or until smooth and fluffy. Reduce speed to low, add the dry ingredients, and mix just to incorporate.
6. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the pecans and coconut to make a crumbly mixture. Press half onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned. Remove from the oven, and spread the cooled fruit filling over the hot crust. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the fruit and gently pat the crumbs in place. (Do not pack it down.)
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool completely before cutting into bars.
I didn't bake these for quite as long as 20 minutes when I put them back in the oven. It was more like 15. My tops were browning, and I didn't want the underside to burn.