SECRET RECIPE CLUB: AMAZING APRICOT BARS

Here we are. Last Monday of September, which means Summer is gone. Over. Finito. Acabado. I could sit here and whine for hours, filling your screen with paragraph after paragraph describing in detail my despair, frustration, and overall gloom. Telling you how my interactions with human beings are affected as the average daily temperature goes down. You don’t want to be around me in January, even with all that New Year upbeat aura. But, enough with the negativity.

The last Monday of the month brings many reasons to be joyful, as it is Reveal Day for The Secret Recipe Club. This month I got a fantastic blog to stalk and cook from: A Palatable Pastime, hosted by Sue, who lives in Ohio with her husband and two lovely cats. She develops her own recipes – often with a Southern US flair – and not only has won several contests, but her productions have been featured in many top-notch sites like LDS Living, Mrs. Field’s and the Christian Science Monitor’s food section. I was thrilled to stalk her site, although a bit overwhelmed by the number of possibilities bookmarked to pick, cook, and share with my readers today.

Twelve recipes made the final list, but to keep it manageable, I’ll just mention half of them: Sweet Potato Biscuits (I’ve always wanted to make them… was very close to choosing it for this assignment), Thai Salmon Curry….   Vegan Mushroom Pumpkin Chili (her description tells me it’s a winner of a recipe), Dutch-Baby Pancake (another recipe I’ve always wanted to try), Thai Larb Soft Rolls… and Sue’s Almost Famous Meatballs (great post!). There were so many tasty options to choose from, but in the end I made a batch of her Amazing Apricot Bars. No doubt 2015 is the year of the apricot in the Bewitching Kitchen…  These turned out spectacularly amazing!

Apricot Bars

AMAZING APRICOT BARS
(from A Palatable Pastime)

For shortbread crust:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour (8-1/2 ounces)

For topping:
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats, toasted
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup dried cranberries (craisins)
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons honey

For finishing:
1/3 cup apricot jam
3 tablespoons sweetened flaked coconut

Heat oven to 350F.

Butter the inside of a glass 8×8-inch square baking pan. Cream together the butter and sugar (thoroughly mix until sugar dissolves). Stir in the vanilla, salt and flour and mix into a dough. Press dough evenly into the bottom of the buttered baking pan, then chill in the refrigerator while you continue.

Mix the dry ingredients for the topping together in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, melt the butter with sugar and honey over low heat. Stir in the dry fruit topping mixture and bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes then remove from heat. Take out the baking pan, and spread the top of the dough with the simply fruit apricot spread. Top the spread with the cooked fruit mixture.

Sprinkle the topping with an extra 3 tablespoons of sweetened flaked coconut. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before slicing into squares.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

ApricotComposite

The bars were juicy, sweet, with a slight tang from the cranberries to balance flavors. The crust., which I find the trickiest component of this type of concoction was perfect: not too hard, not too crumbly.  As usual, I brought the whole batch to our department, and by 9:30 am, not a single crumb was left on the platter.  So, I advise that if you intend to share it friends, make sure to grab a square for yourself right away…  They are seriously addictive.

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Sue, I thoroughly enjoyed stalking your site, I love the way you go the extra mile to explain the technique behind your recipes, so that even a novice cook will be able to make the many tasty things you share on your blog.  I hope you also had fun with your assignment this month. My readers are invited to browse through this month’s collection by poking the cute frog at the end of this post.

Apricot Bars2
ONE YEAR AGO: Spiralizer Fun

TWO YEARS AGO: Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto

THREE YEARS AGO: Carriage House Apple-Walnut Pie

FOUR YEARS AGO: Chicken Marsala

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Home, sweet home

SIX YEARS AGO: Levain Bread with Caramelized Onions

FAB CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

These cookies were originally called “Flourless Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies.” If that’s not a mouthful of a name, I don’t know what is…  But doesn’t it sound great? Flourless immediately conveys a soft, melt in your mouth fudgy texture. Almond butter is the grown-up, classy version of peanut butter. Once you add chocolate chips, oats, and a touch of coconut (omitted from the already long name), you can stop searching for the perfect cookie to start the day. Or as a mid-morning snack…

The recipe comes from Zainab’s blog, Blahnik Baker. Zainab is a food blogger who is working hard to finish her PhD in neuroscience. I remember those days (the PhD days, not the neuroscience); they are bittersweet like the best piece of chocolate. Part of you is thrilled by the vision of the finish line approaching, but getting there is never easy. Always harder than you anticipate.  I don’t know a single PhD candidate who at the time of the defense said “I started writing my thesis early enough, it all went smoothly”.  Nope, never. But, one way or another, we all seem to get there, and at some point forget the pain, enjoy the thrill.

Choc Chip Cookies1

FAB CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
(from Blahnik Baker)

⅔ cup old-fashioned rolled
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
⅓ cup coconut flakes
1 cup almond butter (I used coconut almond butter)
⅔ cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
⅔ cup dark chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with wax paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and coconut flakes

In another medium bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, mix the almond butter and sugar until smooth. Add in the eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Reduce speed to low and add in the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined (do not over mix). Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate chips by hand.

Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop 2 tablespoon rounds of dough onto the prepared sheets.

Bake cookies for 9-11 minutes. Let cookies cool on sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

CookieDough
I did not grow up eating cookies, they were not part of my family tradition. However, since moving to the US, I developed intense fondness for cookies with rolled oats.  A common American practice is to dunk cookies in milk, but I find that hard to watch. It actually makes me a little queasy, much to the amusement of one of my stepsons, who loved to tease me about it. But, the truth is that even with my anti-American stance on the dunking of a cookie, I suppose that this one would be perfect for such objectionable act.

Cookie Balls

We loved these cookies! If you don’t have coconut almond butter, use the plain type, but don’t omit the coconut flakes, they contribute a nice texture and that tropical flavor that makes these babies special and unique.

cooling

Zainab, thanks for the recipe, and good luck in this final stretch of your research, have a batch of cookies nearby, they do give a lot of energy and will make writing a tad easier. Wishful thinking?

😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Pumpkin-Chipotle and Kale Pizza

TWO YEARS AGO: Enchiladas Suizas a la Marcela Valladolid

THREE YEARS AGO: The Little Apple

FOUR YEARS AGO: Majestic Sedona

FIVE YEARS AGO: Watermelon-induced Daze

GRILLED CHICKEN WITH TAMARIND AND COCONUT GLAZE

For most people, there is such thing as a grilling season, and it’s starting right about now.  For us, the grill is going all year-long, no matter the temperature outside. We never stop. Of course, it is a lot nicer to be out  moving stuff around the grill wearing shorts and a t-shirt instead of a down jacket. Let me rephrase that: it’s a lot nicer to do anything wearing shorts and a t-shirt.

This is the perfect recipe for those busy days.  Boneless chicken thighs stay the whole day in the fridge, marinating in coconut milk, tamarind, and a few selected spices.  When you get home, bring the chicken to room temperature as you heat your grill and get your side dishes going.  The meat will be moist, tender, with the right amount of heat.  You will love this!

ChickenCoconutTamarind2

GRILLED CHICKEN WITH TAMARIND AND COCONUT GLAZE
(slightly modified from One Perfect Bite)

1/2 cup coconut milk (or yogurt)
1 tablespoons tamarind paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon garam masala (or ground cumin)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 lemon, cut in wedges
Sprigs of fresh cilantro for serving (optional)

In a large bowl, combine coconut milk, tamarind paste, garlic, salt, garam masala and cayenne. Add chicken and turn to coat well with marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours.

Remove chicken from  marinade, and grill for 8 to 10 minutes per side. You could also brown chicken in a skillet on stove, place on a baking sheet and finish cooking in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Garnish with lemon wedges and cilantro.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click

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The classic substitution suggested for tamarind paste is lime juice, as the main purpose of the tamarind is to bring acidity into the equation. Of course, it’s acceptable, but the paste is one of those ingredients that once you start using, you will get more and more fond of.   Just like miso, it keeps forever.  You can use it in drinks, in desserts, in all sorts of recipes. Not sold yet? Let me share a few delicious options:

Tamarind-Glazed Honey Shrimp, from A_Boleyn

Chickpeas and Chana Dal Cooked Together in a Mint Sauce, from Eats Well with Others

Thai Red Curry with Pork Belly, from Rachel Cooks Thai

Creamy Peanut Chutney, from Love Food Eat

Prawn Sambal, from Sea Salt with Food

Indian-Spiced Pulled Pork with Tamarind Barbecue Sauce, from Angela’s Food Love

Tamarind Date Cake, from Dan Lepard

Tamarind and Fresh Ginger Cake with Lime Glazing, from Anh’s Food Blog

Mozambique Chicken, from The Perfect Pantry

Tamarind Rice (Puli Sadham), from Chitra’s Food Book

Agua de Tamarindo, from A_Boleyn

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ONE YEAR AGO: Chicken-Apricot Skewers

TWO YEARS AGO:  Asparagus Quiche

THREE YEARS AGO: Two-stage Pea and Prosciutto Risotto

FOUR YEARS AGO: Mellow Bakers: Corn Bread

RIDICULOUSLY GOOD COCONUT BRIGADEIROS

A note to subscribers: Google Reader will shutdown on July 1st, 2013. If you have a subscription to this blog through Google Reader, please sign up for email notifications, or switch to another reader. I recommend Feedly or Bloglovin. They will automatically retrieve all your Google reader subscriptions.

platter1Originally, this post would have a simple and straightforward title:  “Coconut Brigadeiros”.  I made them late on a Sunday evening to take to our department next day.  Phil tried one, and was silent for a while. Then, he said “Sally, these are ridiculously good”.  And that, my friends, is how a new title for my post was born.  I could not let that one pass… 😉

Those of you who do not know what is a “brigadeiro” are invited to jump here and read a post I made a couple of years ago.  It explains everything you need to know about the most traditional sweet served at Brazilians parties and kids’  birthdays (particularly kids younger than 91 years old).   Coconut brigadeiros are simply a variation on a classic, but wow… they ARE ridiculously good.   Make a batch. And you will be hooked.

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COCONUT BRIGADEIROS
(adapted from Fine Cooking magazine, original recipe from Leticia Moreinos Schwartz)

1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz)
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut (divided)

Add the condensed milk, coconut milk, unsalted butter, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup of shredded coconut to a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn the heat down to medium low and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens.  Depending on your stove, it should take 15 minutes or a little more.  If the mixture boils too furiously, lower the heat.   Keep stirring at all times or you might end up with brigadeiros that are not totally smooth. The mixture is ready when you can see the bottom of the saucepan as you stir.   Slide the mixture out into a bowl, avoid scraping the stuff that glued to the pan. Let the mixture cool completely or until it is cool enough to handle.

Spread the remaining 1 + 1/2 cups of the shredded coconut out onto a rimmed baking sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to ensure even browning. Remove from the oven when most of the coconut is golden brown. Place into a bowl and let cool.

Scoop the coconut mixture with a small spoon (it helps to wet the palm of your hand with cold water) and roll into 3/4″ diameter balls. Drop each ball into the shredded coconut and toss gently to coat.  Serve right away at room temperature, or chill until ready to serve.

This recipe will make 26 to 36 brigadeiros. I tend to like them a little bigger, so I normally end with less than 30.  The recipe can be doubled.   For a different take, roll the coconut brigadeiros in chocolate sprinkles.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

toasted

Comments:  A friend of mine from Brazil goes to the extent of sautéing the shredded coconut in butter for the coating.  I think toasting in the oven is good enough.  Sometimes you can find shredded coconut in smaller pieces than the ones I used. It will work fine too.

Brigadeiros can be served at room temperature, or straight from the fridge. They will have a different texture, some people (me included) prefer the soft, room temperature version.  While we were in Brazil a couple of months ago, my niece Raquel  served us a variation on brigadeiros that might very well be my favorite: brigadeiros de cupuaçú.

Now, I don’t expect too many Americans (or Europeans for the matter) to know what I’m talking about.  Cupuaçú is a fruit native of the North of Brazil, the same region where açaí grows and where my Dad was born back in 1920.  He absolutely loved both fruits! It has a very unique taste, sweet and sour at the same time. In São Paulo you can easily find cupuaçú pulp  in frozen form, which is what Raquel used for her  brigadeiros.  One of the best things I’ve ever had!  Here in the US I settle for coconut, so you can make it too…   😉

Love Brazilian cooking?  Consider getting Leticia Schwartz book, The Brazilian Kitchen.  For my review of her book, click here.

ONE YEAR AGO:  A bewitching move ahead… (from OK to KS!)

TWO YEARS AGO: Double-hydration focaccia

THREE YEARS AGO: Pierre Nury’s Rustic Light Rye: Bougnat

BAKED COCONUT & “THE BRAZILIAN KITCHEN”

Or, you can call it as Brazilians do: Cocada de Forno

I am very excited to share this recipe, because it’s a very traditional Brazilian delicacy, one that brought me fond memories.  Full disclosure: as a child, I wasn’t too wild about coconut, the texture and the way the shredded pieces got into my teeth distracted from its flavor.  Thankfully I grew out of that phase, and now embrace  the fruit’s unique flavor and texture with the appreciation it deserves.  Cocada is a popular street food, sold in markets and coffee joints as small  pieces wrapped in a paper napkin.  You can take a look at them here.   This version, from the book “The Brazilian Kitchen“,  will produce a softer version, to be spooned out of a baking dish, or – if baked a little longer, as I did – a sort of blondie with intense coconut flavor.  Absolutely perfect for a spring or summer day, it might very well bring a blast of sunshine to your deepest winter.

COCADA DE FORNO (BAKED COCONUT)
(published with permission from Chef Leticia Schwartz)

8 Tbs butter (1/2 cup), at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup sweetened, condensed milk
1 Tbs rum (optional)
1 + 1/2 cups grated coconut (unsweetened)
2 Tbs all-purpose flour, sifted

Heat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 24-oz baking dish with butter or cooking spray.

Place the butter and the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat them together at medium speed until creamy, about 5 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to mix.  Scrape the sides of the bowl after each addition.

Add the coconut milk, the condensed milk, and the rum (if using), and continue to mix until well blended (about one more minute).  Add the coconut and mix until incorporated.   Fold the flour with a rubber spatula, and spread the batter into the prepared baking dish.  You can make the batter ahead of time, keeping it in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Bake in the 350 F oven until the top looks golden brown, the edges are set, but the center is slightly jiggly, about 20 minutes (or if you prefer a firmer consistency, bake until set, 30 to 35 minutes). Remove it from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes.  Serve with a scoop of lemon sorbet for a magical experience…

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

About The Brazilian Kitchen“:    As you may remember, I’ve been on a self-induced cookbook-starvation-diet lately.  I bought this book as a gift for a dear friend, and had it at my bedside table for a few days.  I knew I had to say goodbye to it, but Leticia’s writing and her recipes were so enticing that I decided to photocopy some (many) pages.  Well, I didn’t have to:  Phil  ordered  one for me!  So, that explains how a person fully resolved not to buy cookbooks still manages to increase her collection… 😉

I could not be happier with my gift!  Leticia  covers many of my favorite Brazilian recipes, some of which I’ve featured in the blog: moqueca, chicken soup, black beans, pao de queijo, and brigadeiros.  Speaking of brigadeiros, she includes three recipes for them:  the traditional chocolate, and two tasty departures from the classic, coconut and pistachio brigadeiros.  Dreamy delight…

You will also find recipes for many other Brazilian classics:  acaraje (bean fritters),  xim xim de galinha (chicken, shrimp, peanut and cashew stew), vatapa‘ (fish puree with coconut milk),  quindim (coconut custard cake).

But, what  I like the most about “The Brazilian Kitchen”  is that Leticia goes beyond the classics, and brings very creative dishes to the table, like “caipirinha risotto”, a playful take on the great Italian dish,  using the ingredients of Brazil’s signature drink: pinga and lime juice.

Want some more teasers?  Red pepper and Brazil nut pesto, sole with coconut ginger sauce, tilapia with acai’ sauce, dulce de leche molten cake,  Passion fruit cannoli… many wonderful temptations to cook and enjoy!

If you are curious about Brazilian cooking, this book is a must-have, so help the economy with a click... And, if you want to see Chef Leticia in action (she is also a great teacher!)  jump here for a demonstration on making cod fritters.

Leticia, thank you for allowing me to publish your recipe, and I look forward to your next cookbook!

ONE YEAR AGO: Two-Stage Risotto

TWO YEARS AGO: Life is a matter of taste    (and I still miss you, David Rosengarten!)

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