Monday, October 11, 2010

Help me go to bootcamp!

Recipe below: Earl Grey Plum Preserves Crumb Bars

Pacific Natural Foods is hosting an exciting food challenge...ok, the challenge isn't that exciting, but the prize is! An all-expenses paid two day trip to Napa to attend the Culinary Institute of America's culinary bootcamp program. Let me break down all the awesomeness I just smooshed into one sentence. Napa. A weekend in Napa. Cooking. Learning to cook. From a real culinary school! An awesome culinary school. It's the chance of a lifetime. Since money is the only thing stopping me from enrolling in culinary school tomorrow, it would be a great sneak peak into what it would be like and if it's really for me. Not to mention a weekend with a bunch of people who love food almost as much as I do.

With a prize like that, entering immediately was a no-brainer. All I had to do was post a recipe using Pacific chicken, beef, mushroom, or vegetable broth. Simple! Oh yeah, and include mushrooms in the recipe. Easy. The timing? Well that was problematic. Did I have time to run to the store, buy mushrooms and broth and other savory things and make something killer? Well no. So I did the next best thing, perused my Bananas for Bourbon recipes, and found the perfect recipe. Remember my favorite grilled mashed potatoes? Think they’re culinary bootcamp worthy? I think so!

Here's where you all come and in to help. Just go to my grilled mashed potatoes recipe on the challenge website, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and click to button to vote for my recipe. It's that easy! And you can do it everyday! Tell all your friends, and maybe a few random strangers while you're at it. Think of all the stories and recipes I'd bring home to share with you all. Everyone wins!

And in return for supporting me...dessert! Beautiful, ruby red plums have been prominently displayed at the store for weeks and weeks, and I finally decided to use some in more than just my morning cereal. These earl grey plum preserves are fantastic on their own, spread on some fresh bread or spooned over greek yogurt. Baked into these buttery, crumbly bars, they are even better. The preserves thicken into a sweet, almost candy-like in texture syrup, and the citrus and tea notes keep it fresh and interesting.  A beautiful pairing.

Earl Grey Plum Preserve Crumb Bars

crumb bars adapted from Smitten Kitchen
plum preserves adapted from The Kitchn

Makes 36 1 1/2”squares

For the preserves
1 1/4 lbs black or red plums*
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 TB lemon juice
1 tsp orange zest
2 TB Grand Marnier (optional)
1 cup boiling water
2 TB Earl Grey tea leaves

For the bars
3 cups AP flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp orange zest
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes and very cold
1 egg
1 TB cold water, optional

To make the preserves:
  1. Cut the plums into bite-sized pieces. I cut each plum into eighths and quartered each piece, but whatever works for you. Transfer the plums to a medium saucepan, along with the sugar, honey, lemon juice, orange zest, and Grand Marnier. Toss until the plum pieces are coated, then set it aside.
  2. Combine the boiling water and tea leaves in a small bowl and steep the mixture for 15 minutes. Strain the leaves out through a fine mesh strainer. Place the brewed tea in a small saucepan, bring it to a boil, and let it simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half (~1/2 cup).
  3. Pour the concentrated tea into the saucepan with the plums. Bring the mixture to a boil, and let it simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 25-30 minutes, or until the plums have broken down and the mixture has thickened. Let the preserves cool for about 30 minutes, then move them to the refrigerator for another 30 minutes to fully cool and thicken. 
Note: You want the preserves a little on the thin side, or what you would consider thin if you were going to spread some on a slice of bread. Remember they’ll thicken up more when you bake them into the bars.

To make the bars:
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and spray a 9x9” baking dish with baking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the lemon and orange zests. Using a pastry blender, a fork, or your finger tips, cut the cold butter into the flour until the butter and flour are worked into pea-sized crumbs. Stir in the egg to get a crumbly dough. If the dough feels a little too dry and isn’t forming very large crumbs, add the water. I didn’t do this and I wish I had.
  3. Press 1/2 to 2/3 of the dough into your prepared baking pan, depending on the bar-base to crumbly-top ratio you prefer. I used almost 2/3 because I wanted a more substantial shortbread base. Pour the chilled preserves over the dough, using a spatula to gently spread them to an even layer. Crumble the remaining dough over the preserves and very gently press them into the preserves.
  4. Bake the bars for 45 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden brown. Let it cool completely in the pan so everything sets up properly, about an hour. When cooled, cut the bars, using a sharp knife, into 1 1/2” squares.

*Don’t worry about buying exactly 1 1/4 lbs of plums, just make sure it’s on the heavy side of 1 lb. The pits take up a bit of the weight and I wanted a hair more plum when I bought just 1 lb.

1 comment:

  1. duuuude, these sound AWESOME. i heart crumbly bars and the plum sounds amazing.