Everyone has foods that, after one bite, transport them back to the days of their childhood. Whether it’s your Mom’s meatloaf, your Grandmother’s meatballs, or simply a Jell-o snack pack, food has a way of reminding us through taste, touch, sight and smell of the past. For me, the things that I remember the most from childhood are the desserts. Yes, I definitely had a sweet tooth, and still do. My Mom’s banana cake and pumpkin bread, my Grandmother on my Father’s side’s custard with bananas, and a fluffy chocolate cake with marshmallow icing stick out poignantly in my memory. Along with those was one of my favorite desserts: apricot bars with meringue. My Mom used to make these quite often, and if no one was around to stop me I could polish off half a tray without skipping a beat. I recently had my Mom send me the recipe, which was originally my Grandmother’s, and I tried my hand at making them. They were delicious, just as I remember.
Here are my Mom’s recipe cards. I will elaborate on some of the more “vague” instruction points, since I had to get clarification over the phone while I was making them. Those of you who know me know that I don’t bake very often, so this was a bit of a rarity for me. I am happy to say that they came out great!
Back of the Card:
Apricot Bars (serves a crowd):
For the topping:
- 2 egg whites
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 T flour
- pinch salt
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
For the Base:
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 cups flour
- 3/4 cup butter
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1-2 jars of apricot preserves (if you want you can substitute your favorite jam, but I highly recommend apricot) You want a nice even layer of jam on the base, regardless of what kind you pick.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
For the topping: beat the eggs, sugar, flour, and salt into a “meringue”. Now, I had to call my Mom on this point for clarification, because I was expecting this to beat into a meringue as I know a meringue to be: i.e., stiff peaks of egg whites. This is not the case with this “meringue”. This meringue is more like a thin frosting that you pour over the bars once you’ve spread the preserves. Don’t worry if it doesn’t set up for you; it will cook in the oven. Once you’ve beaten the meringue, add the chopped nuts and mix to incorporate.
For the base: Cream the butter, sugar, and eggs. This means put all three in a bowl and beat them until creamy, either with a hand blender, a mixer, or just a wooden spoon. Add the vanilla and flour, and mix to make a dough. Spread this dough flat on a baking sheet (by “use larger pan” my Mom means an 11 x 17in pan or bigger). To do this you can roll, knead, and press the dough until it’s evenly spread on the bottom of the pan.
Spread a liberal layer of apricot preserves on the dough. Bake for 6 minutes at 350.
Remove the pan from the oven, spread the meringue over the top, and bake at 350 for an additional 15 minutes until just becoming golden.
Enjoy a tasty treat from my childhood!