Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pear Mince Streusel Bars

Pear Mince Streusel Bars

This is ridiculous -- over two months since I've posted?! But I've been baking like crazy. At least once a week, I bake something to bring to the construction crew at our house-under-construction for our weekly Friday jobsite meetings.

I tried this recipe in my quest to solve The Peach Challenge: how to bake with peaches in such a way that can be easily cut up, given away, and consumed with just hands? Most peach-baking is pies and cobblers, strictly plate-and fork affairs.

From my now all-time favorite baking book, "Cookies for Christmas" by Jennifer Darling, this Pear Mince Streusel bar recipe looked like it could be adapted for fruit other than pears. Thanks to my CSA fruit subscription, I had an excess of peaches, plums and pluots, and couldn't bear to throw them away when they got too ripe to eat in hand. So I thought I'd substitute them for pears.

It took me a few tries to get the "bar" concept. You bake a crust first, to give structure to what's really more like a cookie than a cake, and then add filling and topping and bake it again. The filling for this recipe is terrific, and flexible also, using orange juice or brandy, and raisins or currants. I've tossed cranberries in there as well, though anything larger than a currant is supposed to be snipped. As it's cooking, the fruit, brown sugar and brandy fills the house with Christmas-y sorts of scents, it's great.

I had a willing helper who thought snipping raisins was a fine idea.

It took me a try or two to get my oven temperature to cooperate, but I did succeed in making cuttable, holdable, distinct bars. The result has been universally popular, and is an attractive and fun thing to bring to a gathering.

I'm looking forward to trying this with pears!