Friday, October 16, 2009

Royal Huckleberry Bars

Growing up, I can’t recall ever having meringue. Sure, if we went out for dessert, I knew that lemon meringue pie was an option. But why would I choose lemon meringue pie when there were superior choices such as apple? I love apple pie and will likely always choose that when given an option. I vaguely recall some story about someone in my family trying to make a lemon meringue pie and it being nothing more than a soupy mess in the end. I don’t know if I was afraid to even give it a try because of this tale of my youth, but I never even thought about making lemon meringue pie. And what else would you use meringue for?

A little bit ago I had the opportunity to make a lime meringue pie, as part of the Tuesdays with Dorie group. That turned out well and good, so I was confident in my meringue-making abilities. I came across this recipe for royal bars and thought I would give it a try. I hadn’t heard of using meringue in a bar cookie, so I was intrigued. Maybe it’s the meringue in the bars that make them “royal.” The original recipe called for raspberry preserves, but I had picked up some huckleberry preserves while on vacation in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho and thought those would work well here. Huckleberries are the Idaho state fruit and they look a lot like blueberries. The taste is similar to blueberries, but they have more flavor than regular blueberries.

These take a little while to put together, since there are a couple of different layers that you have to work with, but none of the layers are complex. The trickiest part was spreading the meringue over the huckleberry preserves. I didn’t want them to be swirled together, so you have to progress very carefully. They fall apart a little bit when you cut them, so they aren’t the best choice for a cookie if it had to travel too far. They are sticky on the bottom, sweet and crumbly on the top. I love the flavor of the huckleberries and I think that they worked perfectly in this recipe. It’s too bad that huckleberries are so hard to find, they added something really special to the recipe.

1-1/4 cup oats
1-1/4 cup flour
¾ cup coconut
¼ cup plus 2/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup butter, melted
¾ cup huckleberry preserves
3 egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the oats, flour, coconut, ¼ cup sugar, and salt. Add the melted butter and stir until well blended. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown. Cool 5 minutes and then spread the preserves evenly over the warm crust.

In a large bowl, with the mixer on high speed, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until thick and foamy. Gradually add the 2/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until the mixture holds soft, shiny peaks. With a spatula, spread meringue evenly over jam.

Bake until the meringue is browned, about 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes and then cut into bars. Cool completely before removing from the pan.

Recipe from Sunset Best-Ever Cookies

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