GALENTINE’S: LADIES’ BRUNCH + APRICOT BARS

My awesome calligrapher friend, Kim, hosted a fabulous Galentine’s brunch today and it was the best way to celebrate our friendship. Forget Valentine’s – it is all about being with your BFFs, enjoying a beverage or three, and eating brunch foods, just like Leslie Knope envisioned.

Kim created a mimosa bar complete with orange juice, green tea, and pink lemonade to add to champagne or sparkling water. She even included little bowls of berries to add to our drinks. We were served hot biscuits straight from the oven with strawberry jam, pumpkin butter, and honey. Next, Kim pulled out all the stops with a quiche that had a hashbrown crust: mind blown. Apparently, Martha Stewart had a good day and shared her genius idea with the masses. Add eggs and goat cheese to the mix and it was one of the best brunch items I have had in a long time.

There were little bowls of truffles on the table and bowls of popcorn to continue snacking on as we discussed important topics like our celebrity crushes. Chris Pratt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Channing Tatum (for his dance moves) were mentioned. There were nine of us, so as you can imagine, it was an afternoon full of laughter. It was also a good mix of married ladies and single ladies, as well as moms and dog moms.

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One of these days I will finally figure out where to look when someone takes my picture. Today was clearly not one of those days, but look at Joanna rocking the bangs!

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We were asked to bring a Galentine’s gift for under $15 and I received a mason jar cocktail shaker! I brought a yellow ceramic berry colander and daisy shaped egg mold from Crate and Barrel.

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I was over-ambitious and decided to make apricot bars one hour before I had to leave for Kim’s. I am a stubborn baker and when I set my mind to something, it is going to happen. I did in fact transport the bars to her house, but they were not consumed. They needed to bake for a little longer and as you can tell from the description above, we did not go hungry. So, after surviving the snowy roads (visualize lots of people not able to control their vehicles and dangerously veering into my lane), I put the bars back in the oven and had a little slice. I’ve had two jars of apricot jam from Trader Joe’s in my pantry for the last few months and I finally made the apricot bars. I had one at the Cake Bake Shop and have had it on my to-bake list ever since.

I chose a recipe from David Leibovitz, since he can pretty much do no wrong, and also because somehow I ran out of my Costco supply of granulated white sugar and this recipe only calls for powdered sugar and brown sugar. There is a hint of rosemary and lemon zest in the crust, which keeps you guessing. I also cheated and used jam, but I am sure his simmering dried apricot concoction is good too if you want to knock yourself out.

APRICOT BARS

Recipe via David Leibovitz

For the dough:

  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • grated zest of half a lemon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary (I eyeballed some dried rosemary)
  • 1 3/4 cups flour

One jar of apricot jam (Trader Joe’s is where it’s at)

For the topping:

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup pecans or almonds, coarsely chopped (I used sliced almonds)
pinch of salt
4-5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, chilled

1. Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil then butter the insides or spray with cooking spray

2. Make the dough by creaming the butter with the powdered sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer until it’s light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, lemon zest, and rosemary, then gradually add in the flour, mixing until the dough is smooth.

3. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and pat it flat into the bottom of the pan using lightly floured hands. Refrigerate the dough-lined pan for at least 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 350º

5. Baked the shortbread for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Once baked, let the shortbread cool to room temperature.

6. Make the crumb topping by mixing together the 1/2 cup flour, brown sugar, nuts, salt, and butter in the bowl of the stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, until the mixture just barely starts clumping together.

7. Spread the apricot filling over the shortbread in the pan evenly, then top with the crumb topping and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the topping is browned

8. Remove from oven and let bars cool completely in pan

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