Sweet & Easy: Apricot Blondies with Monarda

| February/March 2006

For the best flavor, these bars should be made with butter for a good butterscotch taste. The red-flowered monarda (Monarda didyma), also known as bee balm and bergamot, since the other monardas have an oregano-like flavor and would not be good in dessert. Orange mint can be substituted for the monarda. MAKES 32 BARS

• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
• 1 1⁄3 cups packed, light brown sugar
• 2⁄3 cup granulated sugar
• About 1 cup dried apricots
• About 1/2 cup monarda leaves, loosely packed
• 2 1/2 cups bleached flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 3 extra-large eggs
• 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13-by-9-inch pan.

2. In a heavy-bottom, medium sauce-pan, melt butter over medium-low heat. When melted, add brown sugar and stir. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until brown sugar is thick and syrupy, about 4 minutes. Stir in granulated sugar until it is dissolved and remove pan from heat to cool.

3. Thinly slice apricots crosswise. Wash, dry and coarsely chop monarda leaves; there should be about 3 tablespoons of chopped herb.

4. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and stir to blend. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture over apricots and toss to coat lightly.

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