Last week was tough: traveling, a stressful presentation, and lots of personal and work life hassles. I needed a stress reliever. And what better way to relieve stress than workshopping a new recipe?
(Okay, okay. A massage, cocktails, a good book, dinner with friends, and spending time with Alison and a geriatric Siamese are all better. But I digress.)
I was all out of inspiration. Naturally, I turned to my partner in crime: “I want to bake something. I need ideas.” Alison: “How about a bar cookie? You haven’t made one of those in a while.” Me: “Yeah, I was thinking of a bar cookie, too. What kind?” Alison: “Maybe something seasonal?” You can see who the brain is in this establishment. I settled on mangoes, which are just coming into season and have been fantastic at our local grocery store.
The first step in creating a new recipe is research. I look for other people’s approaches, and figure out what I think could work and what I want to change. Turns out, there isn’t much out there on mangoes in baked products. I worried. This might mean mangoes weren’t suitable for bar cookies. I wanted to try them anyway, though, so I persevered. First, I adapted recipes from several Smitten Kitchen bar recipes and a mango shortbread recipe from allrecipes.
I decided to include lime and macadamia nuts in the recipe, to complement the flavor of the mangoes.
My first attempt with these bars went pretty well. Surprisingly well, actually, since I had no idea how the mango filling would work out.
Turns out, they were pretty tasty! I learned several valuable lessons, however:
- More mangoes per “cookie” would be better.
- The lime flavor emerges in the second day.
- The crust was too sandy. Do over!
- Larger pieces of macadamia nuts burn if left unincorporated.
- A glass pan is not ideal for this endeavor.
Back to the drawing board. On Monday night, I drew some inspiration from my favorite baking book, The Good Cookie. I kept some elements the same, and added others.
I baked, chilled, and hoped.
Fantastic! These bars were a great, fun twist on a more traditional fruit-based bar. The lime and macadamia nuts were great complements to the mango. As before, I found the flavor of the lime really emerged on the second day.
1/2 cup macadamia nuts
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
zest of 1 lime
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup white sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 mangoes, sliced
1/2 of a lime’s juice
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
4 tsp cornstarch
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
6 tbsp melted butter
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×9 pan (unless, like me, you use silicone).
- In a food processor, pulse the macadamia nuts with 1/2 cup of the flour until well-blended.
- Add the remaining dry ingredients and pulse to blend.
- Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is blended and coarse, like cornmeal.
- Whisk the egg and vanilla. Add both to the dry ingredients and pulse until the dough clumps together in a ball.
- Scrape out the batter and press into a prepared pan. The dough will be a bit sticky.
- Combine sliced mangoes, the juice from half of a lime, brown sugar, and cornstarch in a bowl. The mixture will be slightly wet, but if there is excess liquid, add more cornstarch.
- Spread mangoes evenly on top of the batter in the prepared pan. There will be several layers of mango.
- Stir dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.
- Pour melted butter and stir until incorporated.
- Sprinkle mixture on top of the mangoes in pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. If the top browns before the bars are done, cover the pan with some foil to prevent burning. Cool to room temperature, then chill overnight before cutting into 16 squares.