Be sure to use the flavorful dried Blenheim apricots from the farmers markets.
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste*
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups dried apricots
3 cups water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup almond flavored liqueur
1 cup packed light brown sugar
Pinch kosher salt
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter
Optional: 1/2 cup chopped nuts or oatmeal, if desired
*Vanilla bean paste is available locally from www.vanilla.com
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Line 9 x 13-inch oblong baking pan with two sheets of foil, allowing two edges to extend beyond the pan. Fold over the longer edges several times to create “handles.” Spray with non-stick spray.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the vanilla to combine. Add the flour and salt and mix just until dough forms. Press dough evenly into the bottom of the pan, and bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown around the edges and in spots in the middle. Cool completely.
Place the apricots and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from head and cool slightly. Transfer apricot mixture to a blender or food processor and purée the mixture until smooth. Add sugar, almond liqueur and salt. Allow mixture to cool.
Combine the flour, salt and sugar until well-mixed. Using your fingers or pastry cutter, cut in the butter until large clumps form.
Finishing the bars:
After the shortbread crust has cooled completely, spread the apricot filling over it to cover. Crumble the topping on evenly and bake at 375° for 25 minutes, or until the crumbs are set and golden brown. Let cool completely. Use a knife to loosen edges, then lift out of pan (using foil handles) to cutting board. Cut into squares.