Marzipan Apricot Brownies with
Tart Cherry Ganache
Image posted courtesy of Alexandra Grablewski.
Tart cherries and apricots both blend so harmoniously with almond paste I can never decide which to use, so I have used both in this sophisticated, multi-layered bar. A crisp almond shortbread forms the base; next comes a layer of 100% fruit (no sugar) apricot spread topped with a layer of almond paste. A fudgy brownie is baked right on top and after cooling, the entire creation is spread with a bittersweet chocolate ganache bursting with moist pockets of tart cherries. (PS: This recipe uses the term “marzipan” because it sounds so much more melodious than “almond paste”; make no mistake, you need almond paste for the recipe).
Makes 32 brownies
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup apricot spread
10 ounces almond paste (not marzipan)
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, such as Ghiradelli (60%), Callebaut (71%) or Scharffen Berger (70%)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into large pieces
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups tart cherries packed in water and drained, or frozen and defrosted
3 tablespoons Amaretto di Saronno liqueur
2/3 cup heavy cream
14 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, such as Ghiradelli (60%), Callebaut (71%) or Scharffen Berger (70%)
For the Shortbread: Position rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Coat a 13 x 9-inch pan with nonstick spray.
Beat butter until creamy with flat paddle on medium-high speed, about 2 minutes. Add sugar gradually and continue to beat, about 3 minutes at medium-high speed, until very light and fluffy. Beat in almond extract. Add the flour and beat just until combined. Press dough evenly into pan.
Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until dry and just starting to color. Place on rack while preparing subsequent layers. Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
For the Middle Layer: Heat apricot spread in a small pan over low-medium heat. Brush or spoon an even layer over shortbread, which will still be warm.
Roll out almond paste on a lightly floured surface to the same size and shape of the pan and about 1/4-inch thick. Place on top of apricot layer. If it breaks into pieces, that’s fine; just patch it together into an even layer, covering the apricot completely.
For the Brownie: Melt chocolate and butter together in top of double boiler or microwave. Cool briefly. Whisk in sugar, then whisk in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt just until no white streaks remain. Pour batter over almond paste layer and smooth into an even layer using a small offset spatula.
Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until brownie layer is dull, a bit puffed and the edges have begun to come away from the sides of the pan. A toothpick inserted in the center of just the top brownie layer will show a few moist crumbs when removed. Cool completely on rack.
For the Ganache: Drain or defrost cherries, if necessary. Roughly chop them so that most of the cherries are halved, some are whole, but do not chop finely. Stir together with liqueur in small bowl and allow to macerate while you make ganache. Place cream in medium-sized saucepan over medium heat just until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and immediately sprinkle chocolate into cream. Cover and sit for 5 minutes; the heat will melt the chocolate. Stir gently until smooth, then stir in cherries and any liquid. Allow to cool at room temperature until thick enough to spread, about the consistency of soft mayonnaise. Spread evenly over brownies using a small offset spatula. Chill briefly to set glaze. Cut into 32 bars (8 x 4). Refrigerate in airtight container up to 3 days in single layers separated by parchment paper, or freeze up to 1 month.