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.
5. Beat eggs into warm brown sugar and butter mixture (it should not be hot) to blend thoroughly. Add vanilla and stir well.
6. Pour liquid ingredients into the flour and stir until just blended. Add apricots and monarda and stir until just mixed in. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in a preheated oven for 35 minutes, until the top is a deep golden brown. Allow to cool completely on a baking rack before cutting into bars.
Susan Belsinger is the author of Not Just Desserts: Sweet Herbal Recipes (Paul’s Printing, 2005).
Click here for the main article, Sweet & Easy Desserts with Herbs.