Do you ever sit down and consider how blessed you are? After a weekend with family and the dearest of friends, the blessedness of my life seems to be as clear as ever. I find it easy to confine myself to the daily distractions, struggles and occasional disappointments that come with living in a city, never leaving room to step outside and view life from a wider angle. Whenever I go home to the mountains, my thoughts grow wider and clearer with all the extra room to breathe. Maybe it’s in part because of all the open space or just the simple joy of fresh pine in the air mingling with smoke billowing from a smoldering wood stove. It might be the slower pace of life or it could be the darkness that falls at night allowing me to gaze at the blanket of stars above, reminding me that I’m smaller than I think I am. Slowing down is easier when I’m in the mountains and spending time on the porch with coffee and a best friend while passing the time chatting about less weighty matters, tends to be a requirement.
I feel very fortunate to live within just a few hours of the rest of my family as well as one of my truest friends. It’s easy to drive up after a busy week and unwind in what feels like the wilderness, comparatively. When I stay with Joleen, in her sweet little cabin in the woods, we often bake together, enjoying the fruit of our labor on the porch swing, in our pajamas, with a tall cup of coffee, admiring the beauty of our surroundings. This time of year, the mornings are still a little brisk, warranting long pants and a light sweater, but warm enough for bare feet. We prop them up on the railing, balancing a plate of frittata or biscotti on our laps, cupping our mugs in our hands as we catch up on life. It’s one of my absolute favorite things to do.
Let me share our view from the porch: Isn’t it lovely?
Next time we are together, I’m suggesting we make these apricot bars. They are simple enough to assemble without cutting in to porch time and they are easy to eat with one hand while the other holds a mug, not to mention, they are utterly satisfying. If you want to use rosemary in the crust recipe instead of cardamom, I think that would be a great swap. The cardamom adds a little exotic flair to these which I liked a lot. If you are feeling adventurous and want these a little bit more homemade, you can follow the instructions for the filling from this post by David Lebovitz.
adapted loosely from David Lebovitz and Tartine
makes one 9×13 pan (about 18 squares)
For the crust
- 1/2 cup (55g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (215g) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 17.5 oz jar apricot preserves
For the crumble topping
- 1/2 cup (70g) flour
- 1/2 cup (95g) packed dark brown sugar
- 1/3 cup (40g) old fashioned oats
- heavy pinch kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons (45g) unsalted butter, cubed, chilled
- Preheat the oven to 350F and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
- To make the crust: sift the confectioners’ sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Stir in the flour and cardamom. Add the butter and beat on low speed just until a smooth dough forms.
- Press the dough evenly into the pan and allow it to come up about a 1/2 inch up the sides of the pan. Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights.
- Bake the crust until it is a deep golden brown, about 25-35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the crumb topping. Mix together the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, and butter in the bowl of the stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, until the mixture just barely starts to clump together. Refrigerate if not using immediately.
- Spread the apricot preserves evenly over the cooled crust and sprinkle evenly with the crumb topping. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the top is golden and the filling is bubbling.
- On a wire rack, cool bars completely. Cut into squares and serve.