Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sweet Cherry-Almond Bars

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)

I recently bumped into a friend at the grocery store who was heading to the farmer's market in Madison, Wisconsin. Gung-ho to hear it, I told her that Madison has the largest producers-only farmer's market in the U.S.

Lifting her eyebrows, she asked, "Really? I thought it would be San Francisco or something."

Jokingly, I responded, "You snotty, snotty East Coaster." We both laughed.

What is it about the Midwest that makes it seem podunk to people from the coasts? During my five plus years out East, I spent a great of time debunking stereotypes about the region. Friends and family living on the West Coast seem to harbor many of the same misconceptions. In fact, when my sister was working on her master’s thesis, an uncle visiting from California actually asked one of her advisers if he liked meat and potatoes. It didn't go over well.

Is it that the region's greatest inventions - the airplane, the skyscraper, the assembly line, the brownie - are so commonplace. Or that the low-key approachability Midwesterners bring to the table seems naive? I really want to know.

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)

On a recent family vacation in Michigan, I had the fortune of enjoying another great contribution from the Midwest: cherries. (Michigan produces more tart cherries than any other state. Its bounty equates to nearly three-fourths of the total annual production). At my sister's suggestion, we stopped at The Cherry Republic in Ann Arbor which has the tastiest dried cherries that I've ever eaten. It also sells chocolate covered cherries, cherry salsa, cherry jam and cherry butter. I smeared so much of cherry butter on the sample crackers that I should have been ashamed. But it has such a comforting homemade flavor that I felt as though I was in my own kitchen. On our way to Grand Haven, we bought a bag of fresh cherries from a local farm stand. We spent the rest of the drive plucking their stems and munching on their sweet flesh.

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)


Makes 16 bars


1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 an egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup roll oats
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1.5 ounces 70% chocolate
1/4 cup almonds
6 ounces cherry butter or jam

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line an 8-inch square pan with tin foil and grease the foil.

In a standing mixer, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy.

Beat in the baking powder, almond extract, and egg.

Add the flour and mix until just incorporated. Add the oats, coconut, almonds, and chocolate. Mix until it's just incorporated.

Press 3/4 of the dough into the baking pan. Top with a layer of cherry butter. Crumble the rest of the cookie dough on top of the cherry butter.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the crumbled dough turns golden brown.

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