Friday, July 23, 2010

Beware The Puffy Can: On Culinary Mimicry

Today was a resting day. Which meant I got a lot of things done.

Of interest: I decided to do a bit of gastronomic experimentation. The Yale Dining Halls every once in a while have these fruit bar things: a layered sort of bar dessert with some sort of fruit middle layer. I really like them, and I even stock up whenever they have them to devour over the ensuing week. Today I decided to see if I could recreate them.

In theory they're pretty simple: some sort of crumble/cookie/pie crust dough, pat into the pan, lay on the filling, and top with another layer of the dough.

I decided to base the dough portion on something that resembles a shortbread/sugar cookie. One feature of Yale's bar things is that they mix rolled oats into the dough to give it some texture and health benefit. It just so happens that there's a big container of raw rolled oats in my house after a brief foray into eating oatmeal daily to try to lower cholesterol (not mine). As such, there's a ton left, and they're beginning to get old.

Here's the loose recipe I came up with:

Yale Fruit Bars (Ver. 1.0)
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1 cup rolled oats
-1/4 cup granulated sugar
-3 tbs. honey (I used clover. I honestly can't tell the difference between honeys.)
-4 tbs. melted unsweetened butter
-a splash of vanilla (or however much comes out when you bump your arm against the refrigerator)
-some cinnamon (or however much it takes to make the dough look like the skin of a teenager with bad acne. The speckling, not the color.)

Fruit Filling:
-1 can cling peaches
-2 tbs. granulated sugar


-1 can fruit pie filling (Strawberry had the most recent expiration date. A little over a year ago.)

Combine all the dough ingredients into a bowl. Preferably one just slightly too small for all the ingredients, causing you to spill most of it on the counter. The final consistency should feel like really dry play-dough, crumbly, but able to be pressed into a ball. Divide dough mixture in half. Press half of the mixture into a 9x9 baking pan. Bake the bottom layer of the bars at 350F for 20 min until light/medium brown. Test how hot the oven is by tapping the metal rack with your hand. Don't believe the oven thermometer. The machines are trying to deceive you.

To prepare the peach filling, drain all syrup from the peaches, and combine with sugar in a food processor. The final consistency should be like baby food. Also make sure to use a can of peaches two years past its expiration date. I've always been told that as long as the can isn't puffy, it isn't botulism. Use pie filling as is. Spread a thin layer over the bottom layer (somewhere between icing a cake and buttering toast. About 3mm for you quantitative folks). Place back in the oven and bake for another 10 minute to let the fillings set up. Remove from oven and press top layer of dough onto the fruit filling. Return and bake until medium brown, around another 20 minutes.

Here's the finished product:

Some thoughts. Not bad for a first attempt. It wasn't un-tasty, it just fell short of recreating the Yale fruit bars.
Things to improve:
-The bake time is absolutely ridiculous. Not baking something for an hour. Cranking up the heat next time. As Aunty Marialani says,you can either bake the chicken at 850F for 1 minute, or 5F for 4 days. Love Aunty Marialani, made the day much much better. You all need to watch the whole thing. (Also, this one, also from Rap Reiplinger).

-The oats should be toasted prior to baking.

-Not sure if the sugar/shortbread cookie base is the best. Perhaps I'll try something more crumbly along the lines of the topping to Apple Brown Betty. Brown sugar instead of white. Also might try a pie crust base as well. Since I plan on toasting before, I might try a granola type base as well.

-Also, the ones at Yale have shredded coconut in the dough as well.

-I don't think the butter is the right shortening. I want something a little crispier. Sub a combination of margarine and canola oil for the butter to play around with texture.

-Need to work on the fruit filling. Will try some sort of jam or preserve. Preferably one that isn't 2 years expired. If I die tomorrow, it was the food poisoning. There's a sample of the offending pastry in my oven. Test it. Find out what killed me. Find a medium, and relay the results of the analysis. I'd be curious as hell (or heaven, as it were). If I just get sick, you'll all hear about it in graphic detail.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, after seeing the pictures, I know exactly what dessert you're talking about. I think they're call "lemon bars". I really like them, too!