December 2, 2009
Gearing up for the SPCA Bake Sale, I had one more promising recipe to taste-test. Like the Double Chocolate Peppermint Bars I tested recently, the inspiration again was Carole Walter’s “Great Cookies” – a James Beard Award winner and IACP winner.
These bars took a little doing – about an hour to put together – and are a touch too fussy for the Bake Sale. You have a brown sugar shortbread base, with a cherry filling and a meringue pecan topping. The combination of flavors was great, especially if you’re a nut lover. All in all, pretty delicious, and lighter than a lot of the things that come out of my oven this time of year!
So, these bars gets thumbs up for flavor but don’t get invited to the Bake Sale! I’ll be making Cookie Madness’ White Chip Raspberry Bars for the sale again, since they were well-received last year. You get a similar zip from the berry jam (I use my homemade cranberry jam) with a nutty complement from sliced almonds. If you double Anna’s recipe, it fits nicely in a 13 x 9 pan, and will give you 12 healthy-size bars.
If you have a little bit of time on your hands, do try these Cherry-Pecan Meringue Bars. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Cherry-Pecan Meringue Bars
(adapted from Great Cookies)
1 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup water
1 cup cherry preserves or jam (I used homemade cranberry jam)
1 tsp fresh lemon zest
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of salt
2 Tblsp POM Wonderful juice (the original recipe called for Cherry Heering liqueur which is a bit pricey, and unnecessary IMHO)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13 x 9 pan with nonstick foil.
Place the cherries and water in a small saucepan. Cook, covered, over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes or until cherries are tender and almost all of the liquid has evaporated.
Add the rest of filling ingredients. Bring to a boil. Place the mixture into a food processor and pulse 5-6 times. The mixture should still have some texture, rather than being a puree. Chill mixture for 30 minutes or up to 1 week.
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter (I used salted)
1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1-3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
Place the butter in a medium saucepan and barely melt over low heat, remove from heat and allow to finish melting. Set aside to cool to tepid, then stir in brown sugar. Blend in the flour and salt all at once.
Drop 8 spoonfuls of dough onto the prepared pan. Press dough evenly into bottom of pan. Bake at 350 for 15 to 17 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes then spread the cherry filling evenly over crust.
8 oz pecans (2 cups chopped)
3/4 cup sugar
3 egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Place the pecans in a food processor and add 1 tablespoon of the sugar and pulse 3-4 times, or until finely chopped. Set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Add the salt. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until firm but not dry. Add the remaining sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, taking about 1 minute. Add the vanilla and beat 30 seconds longer to form a shiny meringue. Fold in 1 cup of the chopped pecans.
Spread the meringue evenly over the cherry mixture, smooth the top, and sprinkle with the remaining pecans. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack. Remove from pan, using the foil to lift it out, and cut into bars.