Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Chocolate Chip and Apricot Bars - 'We Should Cocoa' July

However much you like fresh ripe apricots, I'm sure you'll agree that they don't have an awfully intense flavour; they are easily overwhelmed by stronger flavours and really need pairing with something even more delicate for them to shine. For that reason I chose to use dried apricots  for July's We Should Cocoa challenge. This month the challenge to use apricots was set by Chele at Chocolate Teapot. If you would like to join in the challenge of using a specified ingredient in a chocolate product, then the rules can be found on Chocolate Log Blog.

After a rather disastrous attempt at combining apricots and chocolate into a cake, earlier in the month, I had a rethink about the kind of thing I wanted to bake and I decided to make a bar cookie. None of my recipe books, nor an online search, gave me a satisfactory result, and it didn't seem easy to incorporate dark chocolate either. In the end I amalgamated two recipes from 'The Ultimate Cookie Book' by Catherine Atkinson (currently out of print) - one for a shortbread base and one for an apricot filling - and added chocolate chips to the shortbread and an Amaretti crumb topping to the apricots, instead of the nuts used originally. I think that gives me a new recipe, so I'll write it all out here:

150g plain flour
90g unsalted butter
50g icing sugar
50g plain chocolate (85% cocoa solids) finely chopped

Apricot Filling:
175g dried apricots
250ml water
grated rind of 1 lemon
75g caster sugar
2 teaspoons cornflour

75g crisp Amaretti biscuits, crushed to fine crumbs

Line the base of an 8" square shallow cake tin with baking parchment. If the tin is not non-stick, grease the sides with a little butter.
Preheat the oven to 180C

For the shortbread - either process the cold butter, flour and icing sugar until the mixture begins to come together as a dough, or rub the butter into the flour and sugar mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs and can be squeezed into a dough. Add the chopped chocolate at the end of whichever process you choose and mix in.  Tip the mixture into the baking tin, spread evenly and press down firmly with the back of a spoon. Bake for 15 minutes until firm and just beginning to change colour. Remove from the oven, but leave the oven on for the next stage. Allow the shortbread to cool for a few minutes before adding the topping.

Apricot filling - while the shortbread is cooking, put the apricots and water in a small saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain, reserving any excess liquid. Chop the apricots in a food processor - they need to be quite finely chopped, but not a purée. Return the apricots to the pan and add the lemon rind, sugar, cornflour and 4 tablespoons of the reserved cooking liquid. Cook for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and cool slightly.

To assemble the bars - spread the apricot mixture over the shortbread and sprinkle evenly with the Amaretti crumbs, pressing them lightly into the apricot mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes, making sure the crumb topping doesn't get to darkly browned. Cool in the tin before cutting into bars. I cut into 18 bars, but they were very small!

These bars were really delicious. The dark chocolate and bitter flavour of the Amaretti biscuits balanced the sweetness of the dried apricot filling very well, although the chocolate wasn't a dominant flavour. I was initially dubious that apricots and dark chocolate would suit each other, but they worked together well here. My only disappointment was the shallowness of each layer - the bars needed to be cut very small to keep everything in proportion. Such dainty cookies aren't really my style - or the family's - we needed to eat three or four each to feel we had really tasted them!


Kate@katescakesandbakes said...

Suelle, what a brilliant invention! I love that you had to eat a few to ensure you had the full experience of these lovely bars!

Dom at Belleau Kitchen said...

I mean wow! You've invented a new treat. They look amazing and really chewy? I agree re apricots and love the dried ones. Nice work!!!

Suelle said...

Thanks, Katie and Dom. The bars are a mix of chewy fruit filling, crumbly shortbread and crisp topping - so all textures blending together really!

Foodycat said...

The mixture of textures sounds very good!

Katie said...

I've never seen a bar quite like this. Looks gorgeous though. Amaretti biscuits are yummy, would taste great with the apricots.

Phil in the Kitchen said...

Great idea. That balance of bitter and sweet sounds really inviting.

Choclette said...

Suelle, you are a baker par excellance! These sound really good. They look great too with the contrast of colour and texture. You'll just have to make double the quantity next time and you can cut the into bigger bars ;-) Thanks for taking part.

Chele said...

Wow! You really pushed the boat out on this one by creating your own recipe! Looks really tasty. Thanks for taking part in the apricot challenge ;0)