Peach Pecan Squares

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After a verrrrrrrrrrrrrry long hiatus, I’m back! (at least for now)  This has been a busy year with a move to Ohio, starting a new fellowship, making new friends and additionally, I lost the really sunny patio space I was lucky to be able to use for my photography “studio” in Boston.  This week after a minor baking spree, I finally found motivation (and a small sunny corner in my apartment) to photograph food and blog again.

My baking spree was inspired by The Peach Truck.  As a New Englander, I had no idea about the amazing deliciousness that is The Peach Truck. This company was started by a husband and wife team out of Nashville, to spread the joys of Georgia peaches every summer.  They run a tour a few times each summer selling boxes of peaches in several southern and midwestern cities.  Luckily, one of the stops is Columbus!

I decided I HAD to buy a 25 pound box (this is the minimum that you can purchase) and go crazy making peach EVERYTHING!  And yes, I of course waited in an about 100 person long line for them (it moved quickly). So far I have made peach lambic sorbet (courtesy of Jeni’s Ice Cream), peach liqueur (still infusing), peach, tomato, and burrata salads, and these peach pecan squares which are a slight modification of these smitten kitchen apricot pistachio squares.  The brown color of the pecan aren’t quite as pretty as the green of the pistachios but they are delicious!  Next baking projects are a peach creme fraiche pie and ginger peach muffins.  And I’ll still have a lot more peaches to go….

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Peach Pecan Squares (from smitten kitchen apricot pistachio squares)

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) unsalted butter, cold is fine

Filling
3/4 cup (a scant 4 ounces or 110 grams) pecans
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 pound peaches

Heat your oven to 350 degrees F. 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.)

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 — that’s right, just keep running it; it might take 30 seconds to 1 minute for it to come together, but it will. Transfer the dough clumps to your prepared baking pan and press it evenly across the bottom and 1/4-inch up the sides. Bake for 15 minutes, until very pale golden. For the sake of speed, transfer to a cooling rack in your freezer for 10 to 15 minutes while you prepare the filing.

Make the filling: In your food processor bowl (which I never bother cleaning between these steps), grind your pecans, sugar, flour and salt together until the nuts are powdery. Cut the butter into chunks and add it to the machine. Run the machine until no buttery bits are visible. Add the egg, blending until just combined.

Spread filling over mostly cooled (warmth is okay but it’s hoped that the freezer will have firmed the base enough that you can spread something over it) crust. Cut peaches in half and remove pits. Cut them into strips, then slide each cut half onto a butter knife or offset spatula, tilt it so that it fans a little, and slide it onto your pecan filling decoratively.

Bake the bars for 60 minutes, or until they are golden and a toothpick inserted into the pistachio portion comes out batter-free. This might take up to 10 minutes longer depending on the juiciness of your apricots and the amount you were able to nestle in. Let cool completely in pan; you can hasten this along in the fridge.

Cut bars into squares — chilled bars will give you the cleanest cuts. Keep leftover bars chilled.

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Apple Pecan Oatmeal Creme Pies

I used to bring the unhealthiest (but delicious!) lunches to school when I was younger: Bologna or corn beef sandwiches with a side of doritos or cheetos  finished by a tasty, packaged snack cake or cookie (aka- twinkies, ding dongs, etc).  We always had ample junk food in the house to create these lunches and my kitchen cabinets were the envy of all of my friends.  My favorite dessert snack by far was Little Debbie’s Oatmeal Creme Pies.  While my lunches have become healthier with age (although residency occasionally interferes), I still have a weakness for those Oatmeal Creme Pies of my childhood.

The other day when I was looking for some baking inspiration, my co-worker showed me some recipes she had been eyeing on pinterest.  One reminded me of the oatmeal creme pies and inspiration struck!  I decided to make my own grown up version.

Apple Pecan Oatmeal Creme Pies

Apple Pecan Oatmeal Cookies (adapted from Joanne Chang’s Flour cookbook)

1 cup (sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
1 cup (200 g) packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 3/4 cup (245 g) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 3/4 cup (175 g) old –fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick-cooking)
1 cup chopped apple (from about 2 apples)
1  cup toasted pecans, chopped

Creme Pie Filling (Adapted from Joanne Chang’s Flour Cookbook)

2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 dashes of cinnamon
pinch of kosher salt

Preheat the over to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile in a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt, making sure there are no lumps of baking soda. Stir in the oats.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until thoroughly combined. On low speed, or by hand, gradually add the flour and oat mixture to the creamed butter, mixing until completely incorporated.  Add the chopped apples and pecans and mix until just incorporated.

At this point you can portion the dough out into 1 Tbs balls and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  If time does not permit, this refrigeration step can be skipped (but does make for a better cookie).

Place the dough balls on the parchment lined baking sheet, an inch apart. Bake for about 10 min or until just starting to become golden brown.  DO NOT overbake!  Remove from oven and cool completely on a cooling rack.

While cookies are cooling, make the creme filling in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Cream the butter on medium high.  On slow, gradually add the confectioner’s sugar.  Once incorporated and smooth, turn speed up to medium and add maple syrup, cinnamon and salt.  Increase to high and beat for 1 minute until fluffy.

Pipe or spread filling onto bottoms of half the cookies and then top with the rest of the cookies to make creme pies.