Ciao Italia: My Lifelong Food Adventures in Italy
Mary Ann's newest book contains over 150 recipes, 60 gorgeous food photos, and many scenic pictures of Italy taken by Mary Ann on her travels through the years.
As Christmas approaches, the memory of my mother preparing her sweet-tart dried apricot filling for apricot bars, and then sandwiching it between flaky lemon-scented dough, leads me to the kitchen to carry on the tradition. These can be made ahead and frozen before glazing them. A combination of dried fruits can be substituted for the apricots.
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted cold butter, cut into pieces
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup cold water, or more as necessary
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
In a food processor or in a bowl combine the flour, salt, and confectioners' sugar and pulse or mix together. Add the butter and pulse or blend in with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the yolks, water, and lemon zest and pulse or mix with your hands until the dough comes together. Add a little more water if the dough seems dry. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Put the apricots in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the apricots and place in a food processor or blender. Add the sugar and puree until smooth. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter a 15 x 11-inch baking pan. Divide the dough in half. On a floured surface, roll out one piece to a 15 x 11-inch rectangle. Carefully fold the dough in half, then in half again. Lift the dough onto the cookie sheet, unfold it, and fit it into the pan. Do not worry if there are any tears; simply pat any holes closed. If necessary stretch and press the dough to the edges.
Spread the filling evenly over the dough.
Roll the remaining piece of dough out to a 15 by 11-inch rectangle. Carefully lift the dough and place it over the apricot filling. Press gently around the edges to even the dough.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Remove the pan to a rack and let cool slightly.
In a small bowl, mix the confectioners' sugar and orange juice together until smooth. With a rubber spatula, spread the glaze evenly over the warm crust. Let dry completely, then cut into bars.
Note: To make ahead and freeze, bake the cookies as directed. After cooling, cut the sheet of cookies crosswise in half. Wrap each half in aluminum foil and freeze. To serve, let thaw at room temperature, glaze, and let dry before cutting into bars.