Roasted strawberry and pistachio frangipane squares

I’ve noticed that there seems to be a divide between people who “like to cook” and people who “like to bake.”  It’s also been my observation (and opinion I suppose) that much of this divide has been codified by the “cookers” who think that baking is creatively restrictive, what with the requirement for exact measurements and precise ingredients.

Perhaps I’m literally self-fulfilling the prophecy here, but, I see baking parameters as freeing–not restrictive.

One of the things I love about baking is that if you follow the directions, you are generally guaranteed something in the neighborhood of success (Unless you are making French macarons.  Then, you are on your own).  In fact, I find that following directions is what allows me to get creative.  Once I understand how things work, I usually feel liberated to get jiggy with it.

These squares are a great example,  I borrowed and adapted the recipe from Deb Pearlman at Smitten Kitchen.  She borrowed and adapted it from Dorie Greenspan.  While the general idea of the recipe is similar, each of us has used a different fruit.

Originally, I planned to stick closely to the Smitten Kitchen version and use apricots.  Alas, I was informed by the grocer that apricot season was very short this year and I’d missed it (I had no idea they even had a season).  So I looked around me, found that strawberries were on sale (also not in season but I wasn’t going to ask questions) and Bob’s your uncle.

Plus, it had been a while since I’d roasted strawberries.  Though they appear slightly obscene, roasted strawberries make just about anything better.

In another “if you follow directions, everything will be fine” twist, these squares use a pistachio in lieu of the usual almond as the main ingredient in the frangipane.

Here is the other thing about following directions.  I am of the school that if you know the rules, then it makes breaking them even more enjoyable.

And for the record–I like to do both: bake and cook.  However, it is much easier to offload a batch of brownies on coworkers than it is to get them to take a leg of lamb.  So, I bake.

Want some other recipes that feature roasted strawberries?

  1. Roasted strawberries and cream cookies
  2. Roasted strawberry and ricotta muffins
  3. Roasted strawberry and buttermilk cake with strawberry balsamic buttercream

Roasted strawberry and pistachio frangipane squares

adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s apricot pistachio squares

Note–this recipe has been adjusted for the fact that because it uses roasted strawberries, there will be less liquid in the batter and cook time will be shorter.  If you decide to use fresh fruit, review the Smitten Kitchen recipe for cook times.

Ingredients

Crust
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 115 grams) cold unsalted butter

Filling
3/4 cup (a scant 4 ounces or 110 grams) shelled unsalted pistachios
1 tablespoon (10 grams) all purpose flour
Few pinches of sea salt
6 tablespoons (75 grams) sugar
5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon almond extract, 2 teaspoons brandy or another flavoring of your choice (totally optional)

A batch of roasted strawberries recipe here: roasted strawberries

To finish
Powdered sugar or 1/4 cup apricot jam

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350F.
  2. Cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper and trim each to fit the 8-inch width of an 8×8-inch square baking pan. Press it into the bottom and sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, perpendicular to the first sheet. (If you have an 8-inch square springform, you can skip this and just butter it well.)
  3. Make the crust: Combine the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Cut the butter into chunks, and add it to the bowl, then run the machine until the mixture forms large clumps; it might take 30 seconds to 1 minute for it to come together (but it will).
  4. Transfer the dough clumps to your prepared baking pan and press it evenly across the bottom and 1/4-inch up the sides.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, until very pale golden. Transfer to a cooling rack in your freezer for 10 to 15 minutes while you prepare the filing.
  6. To make the filling: In the food processor bowl, grind the pistachios, sugar, flour and salt together until the nuts are powdery.
  7. Cut the butter into chunks and add it to the machine. Run the machine until no buttery bits are visible. Add any flavorings and egg, blending until just combined.
  8. Spread filling over mostly cooled crust.  Arrange roasted strawberries on the surface of the filling, pushing them in just slightly.
  9. Bake the bars for 40 minutes (but check at 35 minutes), or until they are golden and a toothpick inserted into the pistachio portion comes out batter-free.
  10. Finish squares with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.
  11. Cut bars into squares — chilled bars will give you the cleanest cuts. Keep leftover bars chilled.