Love those dried apricots


Yosri, Wikimedia Commons

Dried apricots are excellent for many types of baking.

 

Having grown up on a ranch that included prune and apricot orchards, I always looked forward to the time of year when we could enjoy the fruits of our labors (pun intended) in dried form. I liked prunes, but to me, the real prize was sun-dried apricots, most especially the ones called slabs.


Slabs are the best, in my opinion, because they are too ripe to cut, thus containing the most sugar and that deep orange color. I do not care at all for most store-bought dried apricots, as they are usually too sour for my palate, and I also don’t like the pale color, or even the texture, which is too soft and mushy.


I learned to bake with home-grown dried fruit thanks to the patience of my Italian Nana, and I have continued to do so all these years since.


If you have a source for local, farm-raised dried fruit, consider yourself fortunate.


I thought today I would share a few of my favorite recipes with you, my kitchen pals.


Apricot coconut shortbread bars


12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) dried apricots


1 3/4 cups sugar, divided


3/4 cup butter, softened


2 cups flour


1/2 teaspoon baking soda


1/2 teaspoon salt


1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut, toasted


1/2 cup chopped pecans


1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with parchment paper


2. In a small saucepan, cover apricots with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes until soft. Drain and remove apricots, reserving 1/4 cup water. Place the 1/4 cup reserved water back into the saucepan and add 3/4 cup sugar. Cook over medium heat until sugar has dissolved. Turn off heat.


3. Chop apricots and add to saucepan. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter and 1 cup sugar and beat until mixture becomes fluffy, about 2 minutes.


4. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix until combined. Add toasted coconut and pecans, mixing well.


5. Place 3/4 of the mixture into the prepared pan, pressing it with the bottom of a measuring cup. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until it is golden brown.


6. Remove from oven and spread apricot mixture over the crust. Sprinkle the reserved crust dough over the top and return to oven for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Tip: Refrigerate after bars have cooled down, to make cutting into bars even easier. Makes about 28 servings.


Apricot coconut scones


If you prefer scones in a triangle shape, feel free to cut them that way, taking into account there might be a slight difference in baking time.


1 2/3 cup flour


2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder


3 tablespoons sugar


Pinch of salt


3 tablespoons butter


1/2 cup milk


1/2 teaspoon vanilla


1 egg


1/3 cup coconut


3/4 cup chopped dried apricots


1. Preheat oven to 400. In a food processor, add the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Pulse to mix together well. (You can just mix the ingredients in a bowl if you prefer the manual method.)


2. Pulse in the butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. (Or just use your fingertips to rub the butter through the dry ingredients until the same texture is achieved.) Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the dried coconut and chopped apricots.


3. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, egg and vanilla. Reserve a few teaspoons of the liquid to brush on top of the scones. This helps them brown nicely.


4. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir in quickly with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. It should be a little sticky. Don’t over work the dough or the scones will get tough and not rise well.


5. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board or counter top. Lightly sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and just using your hands, form the dough into a round that is about 3/4 of an inch thick.


6. Using a 1 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out the scones and place them about 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet.


7. Re-roll the scraps and cut out the rest of the scones. Brush the tops of all the scones with the reserved milk and egg liquid.


8. Place the scones into the preheated oven for about 12 to 15 minutes or until the tops of the scones are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Makes about 18 small scones.


Orange apricot biscotti


6 tablespoons butter, melted


2/3 cup sugar


1/2 teaspoon salt


3 teaspoons orange extract, divided


1 teaspoon vanilla


1 tablespoon grated orange zest


1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder


2 large eggs


2 cups flour


1 cup finely diced dried apricots


1 cup confectioners’ sugar


2 to 3 teaspoons milk


1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.


2. In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, salt, 2 teaspoons of the orange extract, vanilla, orange zest and baking powder until well combined and creamy.


3. Add the eggs and beat them into the batter until well mixed. Add the flour and beat in until just combined (dough will be sticky). Fold in the chopped apricots.


4. Dust your hands with flour to prevent or lessen the dough sticking. Turn dough out onto prepared baking sheet and form into a log.


5. Form log into a rectangle shape that is roughly 5 inches wide and 14 inches long.


6. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and place baking sheet on a wire cooling rack so that air can circulate around the baking sheet. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, reduce the heat to 325.


7. Using the parchment paper, slide the log onto a large cutting board. Slice into 3/4-inch slices across the width of the log.


8. Place slices back onto baking sheet which has been lined with more parchment paper. Slices are cut-side down. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven. Carefully turn the cookies over and bake for another 12 minutes.


9. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to wire cooling rack to finish cooling completely.


10. Once completely cooled, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar with the remaining teaspoon of orange extract and the milk. Whisk until smooth and drizzle over the biscotti. Let set to harden.


11. Package biscotti for gift-giving or place into a food-safe container. Leave at room temperature, or freeze until needed for up to 3 months. Makes about 14 cookies.


Apricot white chocolate cookies


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened


1/2 cup sugar


1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed


2 large eggs


2 1/2 teaspoons real vanilla extract


3 1/2 to 4 cups unbleached flour


3/4 teaspoon sea salt


1 teaspoon baking soda


1 teaspoon baking powder


2 cups chopped dried apricots


2 cups white chocolate chips (not vanilla chips or premiere white baking chips)


1 cup slivered or sliced almonds


1. Preheat oven to 350. Place apricots in a bowl of hot water for about 10 minutes to soften them. Drain thoroughly; set aside.


2. In a large mixing bowl, mix the butter, sugars, eggs, vanilla, salt, baking powder and baking soda with an electric mixer until smooth.


3. Stir in flour, drained apricots, white chocolate chips and almonds with a wooden spoon to combine.


4. Shape dough with hands into golf ball-sized dough balls and place a couple of inches apart on greased cookie sheets.


5. Bake in preheated oven for 13 to 15 minutes or until edges are light brown. Note: If you double this recipe, you may need to add some additional flour, from 1/4 cup to about 1/2 cup, to prevent the cookies from spreading too flat. Makes about 60 cookies.

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