Apricot Rosemary Squares

Developed for a friend named Rosemary with a gluten, dairy, and soy allergy, these squares have received the best reactions from friends and colleagues, in the history of Mighty Good Eats.  They garnered fist bumps, even, so if I may say so myself, they are pretty darned good.

Two years ago I was passing through Kingston, Ontario, on my way to the Wolf Island Music Festival to see Stars, when I stopped in an amazing bakery – the Pan Chancho Café.  They were selling apricot rosemary crumbles, constructed like a date square, but filled with tart apricot preserves with a bit of honey, and what’s that? Fresh rosemary.

Pan Chancho rosemary apricot square was so good I had to run back to buy another to savour, and try to decipher what made it so awesome.  It was the complexity of flavours and the way they fit together perfectly, that made me giggle uncontrollably after that first bite.

Since then I’ve tried over and over again to replicate this magical square, looking up variations of apricot jam and stone-fruit bar recipes – dry or fresh apricots?  Where to put the rosemary? And should I use dry or fresh rosemary?  What about the honey? Where should it go?

With the passage of time, I forgot about this square.  That is, until I was doing research for a fruit square recipe for my friend with various allergies.  I went to the book store and browsed pretty much every single gluten-free book they had on offer.  It took a long time, because I had to weed out the recipes using bean flour, or ones that needed a self-made concoction sing a list of ingredients that made the recipe three pages long.

As soon as I saw the picture in Phil Vickeray’s Gluten Free Baking Book, I knew I had found the one.  (Phil Vickeray is a gluten-free advocate from the UK, with many books and currently hosts several TV shows)  It was an “Apricot and Almond Macaroon” but really, a fruit square with a short bottom crust, jammy middle layer, and some kind of gooey chewy topping.  It looked perfect, and an added bonus was the simple list of ingredients that I could easily find.

After reading the recipe over a few times, my brain started churning, as it often does.  I suddenly remembered the Pan Chancho square – what if I added rosemary to this square?  And the rest, with a lot of tweaking, was fist-bumping history.

With the home made apricot jam, you won’t get an overly dry pastry as gluten-free goods tend to become.  Also, the rice flour crust stays crunchy and crumbly, a rare feat for a gluten-free creature!  All of the flavours are perfectly balanced, from the rose in the jam, to the brown sugar and rosemary powder in the crust, to the nutty topping.  This square gets a perfect score.

How to make the gluten-dairy-soy free Apricot Rosemary Squares

Note that most measurements below are offered by weight and not volume, because that’s how most recipes from the United Kingdom are written.  I find myself enjoying more and more using a weight scale because it gives me more freedom to play around with ingredients – swapping sugars, for example.  The next time I make this I will measure out the volume equivalent and add it in.

Adapted from Phil Vickery’s Apricot & Almond Macaroons from his Gluten Free Baking book.

With a pastry cutter, two knives, or in a food processor, blend together the following ingredients.

  • 5 and 1/4 oz rice flour
  • 2 oz white sugar
  • 1 oz brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground rosemary (powder form) or up to 1/2 tsp finely minced fresh rosemary
  • 6 tbsp vegan/soy free butter (or regular butter) cold

Press into an oiled and parchment lined 9 inch square pan.  Bake at 350 F on the top third of the oven for 10-15 minutes, or golden on the edges.  Take out of the oven and set aside to cool.

While the base crust is cooling, place the following ingredients in a small saucepan and heat, stirring, for about 10 minutes.  The end product should be mushy with still-discernible pieces – I used a fork to mash things up a bit.

  • 8 oz chopped dried apricots
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 8 tbsp cold water
  • 1 heaping tsp of crushed, dried edible rose petals

Set aside to cool.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together the following ingredients and set aside.

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp rice flour
  • 2 oz ground almond

In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the following, adding one ingredient at a time and mixing well before adding the next.

  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 oz light brown sugar
  • dry almond mixture from previous step

Now, you will have one pre-baked crust, apricot-rose jam, and the topping dough.  Next step is to assemble and bake it all together.

Slather 4 tbsp of store-bought apricot jam onto the pre-baked crust, then spread evenly the apricot-rose jam that you made.  Pour the topping dough over top and make sure it is evenly spread.  Sprinkle on some sliced almonds.

Put the whole thing back in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden.

Keep in room temperature in an air-tight container for a few days.


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