Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Honeycomb Bars- 12 Days of Cookies Day 10

12 Days of Cookies Day 10: Honeycomb Bars. These bars aren’t technically Christmas cookies, but I figured a bar with orange juice, candied orange peel, sliced almonds and dried cherries were inherently Christmas-y. I love bar cookies and hadn’t made but one other bar cookie this Christmas. This starts with sweet pastry dough and is topped with a candy-like combo. Yum!

I’ve been looking forward to making these and have been picking up the ingredients as I’ve been able to. Candied orange peel is not likely something that you have on hand. We sometimes have it in the cupboard, but even the Christmas (fruitcake) we make doesn’t used candied fruits. You can find it at the store this time of year, but the candied fruits are often horribly artificially colored. I picked up this candied orange peel at an Italian grocery store in Pike’s Place Market. It’s really good quality and I think that makes a big difference. Yes, candied fruit should be sweet, but not sickeningly sugary.

I changed this recipe ever so slightly in that I didn’t roll out the dough. I just pressed it in the pan. I also made the dough in a food processor, since that makes the work so easy. Since I wasn’t rolling it out, I didn’t refrigerate the dough. I thought that would save time, but then I was reading the recipe and realized I needed a candy thermometer. Hmm, I used to have one somewhere, but I had no idea where it was so off to the store I went to buy a candy thermometer! These are very sweet, so cut them in small bars. I love the orange flavor combined with the cherries and almonds. These are very candy-like, but so, so good.

½ cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups flour
Pinch of salt

¾ cup dried cherries, chopped
1/3 cup diced candied orange peel
2 tablespoons flour
Pinch of salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
1¼ cups heavy cream
1/3 cup honey
½ cup butter
Shot of bourbon
2½ cups sliced almonds, toasted

In a large mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar. In a small bowl whisk together the heavy cream, egg yolk, and vanilla. Add this to the butter and sugar mixture and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and add the flour and salt until just combined. (Or to make in a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the butter it cut in. Add the egg yolk and process until the dough comes together.)

Turn out the mixture onto a lightly floured surface and form into an oblong disk. Wrap the disk tightly in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-by-13-inch glass baking pan.

Roll out the dough into a large rectangle roughly the shape of the pan. Transfer the dough to the pan, and press into the bottom of the pan (do not press up the sides).

Cover the dough with foil. Place dried beans or pie weights over the dough and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and parchment paper and bake for another 5 minutes. Keep the oven on while you make the filling.

In a medium bowl, toss together the dried cherries, orange peel, cake flour, and salt. Set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, stir together the sugar, heavy cream, honey, and butter. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and bring the mixture to 240 degrees F. Do not stir the mixture while it is coming to this stage. Once the mixture reaches 240 degrees, add the bourbon and remove from the heat.

Fold the dry ingredients and the almonds into the hot sugar mixture and pour the mixture into the crust. Spread the filling evenly, and smooth the top.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until the bar is golden and bubbly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting.

Recipe from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

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