The Bars Went Wrong but They Taste so Right: Apricot and Pistachio Frangipane Blondies

I've been buying a ton of apricots at the farmers market and while I have made countless desserts that pair apricots with almonds, the combination of apricots and pistachios is less common. So I was interested to try a recipe from BBC Good Food for Apricot and Pistachio Frangipane Blondies.

The recipe seemed easy enough. To make the pistachio frangipane, you're supposed to beat sugar and butter together until fluffy, and then add an egg and ground pistachios. Since I needed to get out the food processor anyway to grind the pistachios, I just made the frangipane entirely in the food processor so I could avoid dirtying another bowl. I ground the pistachios with some of the sugar, and then added the remaining sugar, softened butter, and the egg.

You can make the batter for the blondies by hand. You stir together melted butter, muscovado sugar (I used light brown sugar), fennel seeds, and salt; add an egg; fold in flour and chopped pistachios; and stir in a little milk to loosen the mixture. You spread two-thirds of the blondie batter into a pan, arrange apricot halves on top, and then drop on the frangipane and remaining blondie batter. Then you scatter on some more chopped pistachios before baking. 
My bars were nicely colored when I took them out of the oven and a tester toothpick came out covered in moist crumbs. So everything looked good. The following morning when I cut the bars so that I could take them to work, I discovered that the bars in the center of the pan were drastically undercooked. I normally cut a 9-inch by 13-inch pan of bars into 24 bars, in four rows of six. The sixteen bars that were around the perimeter of the pan were very damp but edible. The eight bars in the center were not salvageable and I tossed them in the compost.

All that said, I thought the bars were delicious. I loved the dollops of intensely flavored and sweet pistachio frangipane (the frangipane remained creamy and did not set firm) and the crunch of the chopped nuts. The little bit of fennel seed added a really interesting and surprisingly harmonious flavor. My apricots were small, ripe, juicy, and full of flavor. But I was bummed that the bars were undercooked, so I decided to give the recipe another try.

This time I baked the bars for an extra five minutes to a very dark brown, and I was convinced that they would be perfect. Instead, the bars were just as undercooked as they were the first time. And when I stored the bars in a plastic container for a few days, clear liquid actually started pooling in the bottom of the container. For the life of me, I cannot understand why this recipe went so wrong for me. Twice. But I still want to try to get it right. In the meantime, you might find me off somewhere just eating the delectable pistachio frangipane with a spoon.

Recipe: "Apricot & Pistachio Frangipane Blondies" from BBC Good Food.


Grigsby said…
Would it make sense to par-bake the apricots first on a baking sheet and then let them cool? I suspect it's the liquid from the apricots that is keeping the center undercooked.
I had wondered if my very ripe apricots contributed to the problem, especially since I placed them with the cut side down on the batter. You could par-bake the apricots, or use firmer (perhaps even underripe) fruit, or maybe par-bake the blondie layer on the bottom before adding the fruit and frangipane... But then again, the recipe has very positive reviews from others, so maybe I'm just doing something wrong? I'm also going to try this recipe from Smitten Kitchen for apricot pistachio squares.