I am, and always will be, a dessert purist. I prefer my desserts fuss free, full of chocolate, and usually accompanied by a side of vanilla ice cream. I shy away from forced savory/sweet combinations and headline grabbers (bacon cupcakes, anyone?)—but I will make and try anything at least once. Usually, I then retreat to a peanut butter–chocolate default. So I was a little bit surprised by how hard I fell for these bars. Our Rosemary Apricot Squares are the creation of Eric Wolitzky and Patrick Panella, two rising talents in the baking world (coincidentally, they put some time in at Baked). The moment they presented them to me, I added them to our regular menu rotation. The rosemary short dough is light and elegant without being overpowering, and it combines well with the not-so-sweet apricot filling. They are great for breakfast, afternoon coffee, and casual dinners. In short, they are my chocolate-alternative dessert. If there has to be such a thing.
Lightly spray a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and line it with parchment paper, allowing the parchment to just overhang on two sides.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and rosemary. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla at medium speed until fluffy, approximately 2 minutes. Turn the mixer to the lowest speed and stream in the flour mixture. Scrape the dough into the prepared pan, lightly flour your clean hands, and press it into an even layer. Place the pan in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Place the apricots, sugar, honey, brandy, and salt in a medium saucepan with 1½ cups water and simmer over low heat for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the apricots are fork-tender and most of the liquid has evaporated or thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the mixture to release excess steam. Scrape the apricot mixture into a food processor and puree until smooth.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, pecans, and salt. Mix on low speed for 15 seconds. Add the butter and mix until a sandy crumb begins to form, about 1 minute. (At this point, the crumb topping can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use).
Spread the apricot filling over the shortbread, then sprinkle the crumb topping over the filling.
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