When I read the recipe for Cherry Brown Butter Bars by Deb at Smitten Kitchen, I fell in love with her blog all over again. Deb posts some of the most delicious recipes, especially when it comes to baked goods. Last month, a new Earthfare opened near us and they had a fantastic special on organic cherries. Since our local cherry harvest was so poor, Marcus and I treated ourselves and bought a few pounds to snack on. Brown butter is very trendy right now but it's a trend that I love. The combination of brown butter and cherries? There was no way I could not make this recipe.
It certainly lived up to its billing. The shortbread crust combines winningly with the egg-y custard brown butter layer. Deb compares it to a clafouti and the comparison is spot on. I've made it three four times now and the after the third batch, I was running low on cherries. As much as it pains me to say it, the recipe is almost too rich (or at least it is when you're making four pans of it) and the fruit helps to cut through and lighten it a little. So I wondered how I would taste with sliced peaches instead. Peaches are in season here and I thought I could add more fruit if I used peaches instead - the cherries are a bit difficult to split between bars. So I added a thin layer of peaches for the second batch of bars and I liked these even better than the cherries. I tried thick slices of peaches and several thin layers of peaches. I think it's really a matter of personal preference because both taste great to me and to my tasters.
Just a warning - watch the butter carefully. It will start to brown in a matter of seconds and you don't want it to burn.
Peach Brown Butter Bars
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
7 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
pinch of salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter (equal to one stick)
4 Peaches, peeled and sliced
To make Crust:
Preheat over to 375°F. Deb has instructions at her site for faking a tart pan. I used a nonstick cake pan and although I made the first batch using parchment, the other three I didn't bother using it. Make sure to grease your pan using a little butter. Using a rubber spatula or fork, mix the melted butter,vanilla and sugar in a bowl. Then add the flour and salt. Stir until all of the flour is mixed into the butter and transfer the dough to your 8X8 pan. Using your fingertips, press the dough so that it's distributed evenly across the bottom of the pan.
Bake the crust until golden. This takes me about 15 minutes but Deb's instructions say 18 minutes. Just keep an eye on it.You don't want it too done because you're going to bake it again. Put pan on a rack and cool slightly. Keep the oven at 375°F.
Make the filling:
Melt the butter in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat. You want to cook it until it's a deep brown. One thing I noticed is that the milk solids will cook faster than the butter. I cooked it until those were a dark brown and then poured it into a ramekin to cool. This took about five minutes.
Whisk eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla in a bowl to blend. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Add a small amount of brown butter and whisk. Gradually add the rest of the butter and whisk until smooth and well blended.
Arrange peach slices on crust. If using thick slices, arrange like I have in picture.
If using thin slices, arrange a layer and then alternate another layer in a criss-cross fashion. Pour brown butter mixture carefully over the fruit.
Bake bars until filling is golden and puffed. This took around 40 minutes for me. Cool bars completely on rack. Cut into squares and serve. If made more than a day ahead, store in fridge.
The next time I make these, I think I'm going to cut the peaches into thin slices and do about three layers, all criss-crossed over the previous layer of peaches. I would have tried this again so I could have gotten pictures of it but there's only so many sticks of butter I can eat in a single week. My friends all love them but have made me promise not to bring them any more of these because they can't say no to them. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a date with a rowing machine!