Last weekend was my first Food Swap. I brought cardamom walnut cookies (a recipe from Culinary School), mango chutney, vanilla-nectarine preserves and Moroccan kumquat marmalade. Shockingly, my Zucchini Relish was by far the big star of the show . I “sold out” and had swappers still wanting to swap for more. Why do I say “shockingly”? Because when I tested it, my impression was “meh”. I tried some on a slider, and it tasted good, but by itself, I was not impressed – to me, it tastes like relish mixed with mustard – nothing special. I think it needs less turmeric and more tartness – and a bit more serrano pepper. In contract, one of the swappers told me it was the best thing at the entire swap.
Yesterday, baked streusel bars for the office. I sampled one last night. To me, it tasted okay. In fact, I wrote a note next to the recipe that read “Good, not great.” They were too sweet and a bit boring. If I make them again, I’d add orange or lemon rind and ground cloves. Well, this morning, my co-workers are going crazy for them – they keep telling me how delicious they are. I tried another one (maybe they improved overnight?) and it tasted a bit better, but still not rave-worthy. Too sweet!
Double Cherry Streusel Bars*
1 cup dried cherries (about 6 ounces)
1 cup cherry preserves
1 tablespoon kirsch (I used brandy since I didn’t have kirsch)
Dough and streusel
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 cup (packed) sweetened flaked coconut
3/4 cup sliced almonds (about 3 ounces)
Combine cherries, preserves, and kirsch in processor; blend to chunky puree.
For dough and streusel:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 13x9x2-inch baking pan with heavy-duty foil, leaving overhang. Spray foil with nonstick spray. Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in processor; blend 5 seconds. Add butter and extracts. Blend, using on/off turns, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk and blend, using on/off turns, until mixture comes together in small clumps. Transfer 1 cup (packed) mixture to medium bowl and reserve for streusel. Blend remaining mixture in processor until large moist clumps form. Gather dough together in large ball.
Press dough over bottom of prepared baking pan; pierce all over with fork. Bake dough until golden, about 22 minutes; cool crust 15 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.
Add coconut flakes and almonds to reserved 1 cup dough. Mix dough with fork, breaking streusel topping into small clumps.
Spread cherry filling over baked crust. Sprinkle streusel topping over. Bake cookie until cherry filling is bubbling and streusel topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Cool cookie in pan on rack. Using foil overhang as aid, lift cookie from pan. Peel off foil and discard. Cut cookie lengthwise into thirds, then cut crosswise into eighths, forming total of 24 bars.
*Adapted from Bon Appétit
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