apricot-almond shortbread bars

It’s a foggy morning here in north Florida. Looking outside from my spot on the sofa, I can see a few orange marigold flowers peeking out from the raised bed garden in the corner of our back yard. The marigolds were my daughter’s idea. She likes a spot of color in the garden, and I don’t blame her. We planted those marigolds yesterday, nestled them in between the new cherry tomato plants and some yellow and green bell pepper plants. Both kids helped me in the garden yesterday, eagerly scooping up garden soil with their shovels and buckets, watering the new plants, and collecting acorns and weeds into piles. And, at their request, we also planted a new little strawberry plant and a blueberry bush. I’m not very optimistic about how those two will do, but I couldn’t tell them no.

Beside me on the sofa is Madeline, covered up in a red blanket, and warm with fever. Since we don’t have a sitter who is available during the day, I missed work to be home with her. I feel incredible guilt about missing my own clinic – canceling on patients who depend on me to be there for them – but I know that my daughter must come first. It’s a perpetual dilemma, of course, this balancing of work and family. I wish I could say that I’ve mastered it, but I can’t. And, I’m not even sure — can it really ever be mastered?

We’re spending the early part of the day here on the sofa, watching Nick Jr and Disney movies. A trip to the pediatrician will happen later. When it warms up a bit, I’ll drag Madeline outside for some fresh air and sunlight. We’ll water the newly planted garden, and we might rock in the rocking chairs on the front porch.

And, if Madeline is feeling up for it, I’ll share with her these apricot-almond shortbread bars.

I adapted this recipe from this one in Bon Appétit. Preserves are used as part of the topping. I used the peach-apricot preserves you see here, but plain apricot preserves would work just as well. The almond paste is a key ingredient. The sweet almond flavor works well with the sweet and tangy apricot preserves, and the sliced almonds give a bit of crunch to the texture. The base is shortbread, something I’m hooked on. If there exists a more simple yet perfect cookie than shortbread, I have not found it.

Yield: 24 bar cookies

Apricot-Almond Shortbread Bars


1 cup peach-apricot or apricot preserves
1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups (280 grams; 10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup (packed) almond paste, crumbled
1/2 cup sliced almonds, divided


Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter a 9 x 9 x 2 inch metal baking pan and line bottom and sides of pan with parchment paper, extending over the sides of the pan. Butter the parchment. Mix preserves and orange juice in a small bowl and set aside.

Using a mixer (hand-held or stand mixer), beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until well-blended. Beat in the almond extract, orange zest, and cinnamon. Add the flour and salt and beat until just blended.

Transfer 1 cup of dough to another small bowl; add crumbled almond paste and blend, using your fingertips, until small clumps form. Mix in 1/4 cup sliced almonds and set aside for topping.

Press remaining dough evenly onto the bottom of prepared pan. Spread preserves evenly over. Coarsely crumble the topping over the preserves, then sprinkle 1/4 cup almonds over. Press topping lightly into preserves.

Bake until top and crust edges are golden brown, about 1 hour. Cool completely in pan on a cooling rack. Once cool, holding the sides of the parchment paper, lift shortbread from pan. Cut into 24 small bar cookies. Note: can be prepared ahead. Store in a single layer in an airtight container for up to 4 days at room temperature, or freeze for up to two weeks.

Adapted from Bon Appétit, December 2005.

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20 Responses to “apricot-almond shortbread bars”

  1. 1
    Miss @ Miss in the Kitchen — March 14, 2011 @ 10:06 am

    What a delightful treat! Beautiful too! Hope your little one is feeling better!

  2. 2
    Jenn S. — March 14, 2011 @ 10:19 am

    Shortbread is so simple, easy and delicious. I may make some pecan shortbread today (you inspired me!) And, no, I don’t think that balancing work and family can be mastered, but you can be a master juggler. 😉 Hope Maddie feels better soon.

  3. 3
    The Yummy Mummy — March 14, 2011 @ 12:44 pm

    This is tough – mom or oncologist? Although I bet you are wonderful at both.

    Glad you were able to soothe some of that with shortbread. Your pictures are beautiful.

    xo Kim

  4. 4
    JenniferA — March 14, 2011 @ 1:25 pm

    These sound lovely – I was intrigued right away when you tweeted about them last week.

    Your north Florida weather sounds lovely too – I am jealous you can plant your veggies already. I have to wait another two months. Enjoy, and I hope your baby feels better soon – I bet those cookies will help a lot.

  5. 5
    Lucy@acookandherbooks — March 14, 2011 @ 1:28 pm

    Two of my favorite flavors – apricot & almonds! And so very pretty. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  6. 6
    Feast on the Cheap — March 14, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

    You have such a lovely blog – the design, photos, everything! This recipe looks pretty lovely too…

  7. 7
    Brian @ A Thought For Food — March 14, 2011 @ 4:01 pm

    These should be in my belly right now… like, right now. And they look beautiful too!

  8. 8
    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — March 14, 2011 @ 5:27 pm

    Hope Madeleine is feeling better soon. This post made me miss MY mum so much. The past two weeks even though Neil has been amazing, there’s nothing quite like your mum, you know?

  9. 9
    Barbara | VinoLuciStyle — March 14, 2011 @ 9:40 pm

    I don’t think there is any mastering of it…that parenting thing, the constant juggle of work and kids. But I do think we have to make choices and prioritize and though you feel a ping of guilt at having to cancel on patients…you simply can not cancel on your daughter so you did the right thing. There are those moments when only Mom and an apricot bar can make everything all better.

    I would like one of them too…I know it would make me feel better.

  10. 10
    marla — March 14, 2011 @ 11:21 pm

    These shortbread bars are so pretty & I can only imagine how tasty too! Hope your little girl is feeling better & that you had some special time together 🙂

  11. 11
    Ethan — March 15, 2011 @ 1:22 am

    Hope Madeline is feeling better soon. Feeling bad about your patients is normal, but like you said, have to take care of the ones at home first!
    I love the 3rd pic, the one with the corner missing.

  12. 12

    I’m sorry that your daughter isn’t feeling well, I hope she feels better soon. These shortbread bars would certainly have brought a smile to my face on a day when I wasn’t feeling well.

  13. 13
    Lael Hazan @educatedpalate — March 15, 2011 @ 7:15 am

    Oh having a little one who is ill is the worst. I don’t know why, I always feel guilty and frustrated that I can’t wave my magic wand. However, your shortbread bars certainly will bring a smile to her face.

  14. 14
    Megan — March 15, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

    I hate the guilt that comes with the choices we have to make. I hope your daughter feels better and those darn berry plants thrive! 🙂
    Your bars are beautiful and sure would make me feel better. I’ve always wanted to do something with almond paste but never have. This looks like a great way to change that!

  15. 15
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — March 16, 2011 @ 11:21 am

    These look so beautiful! Hope Madeline’s feeling better now… I’m sure these tasty shortbread bars helped to cheer her up!

  16. 16
    Aggie — March 16, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

    I hope Madeline is feeling much better by now. Love Apricot preserves and I just happen to make my first ever shortbread like 5 minutes ago. I may have a new addiction, easy baking is fun for me 🙂 These look so unbelievably tasty!!!

  17. 17
    a frog in the cottage — March 17, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

    that is THE ULTIMATE shortbread bar !! absolutely gorgeous !!

  18. 18
    Tiffany — March 18, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

    Oh my! Yes! Those look delish!

  19. 19

    These look so incredibly delicious!! I am going to make these this weekend – thank you for sharing. Have a wonderful weekend.

  20. 20

    What gorgeous bars and as always just lovely photos. I love almond desserts and these are calling my name! 🙂

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