“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what that was called.
– A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
I love the Moment Before, although, like Mr. Milne & Winnie, I’m not sure what to call it. Anticipation? Antecedent stimuli & positive reinforcement? I don’t know, but it’s the reason why I stayed up all night as a kid before we left for Disney World; it’s the reason why I’ve been obsessively checking the weather in Tennessee before our road trip next weekend; and it’s the reason why I stopped to smell the honey-caramel bubbling before these bars were finished.
I’m waiting for good things to happen, and sometimes the Waiting is just as good as the Thing.
Anyways, did you notice that I said honey-caramel up there? These honeycomb bars consist of almonds and dried fruit folded into a sweet honey caramel, spread over a pastry crust. They’re simple and comforting and they taste just as good as they look baking in your oven.
For the sweet tart dough:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
For the filling:
1 heaping cup dried fruit (I used 1/2 cranberries, 1/2 blueberries; original recipe called for 3/4 chopped dried cherries, 1/4 candied orange peel)
2 tablespoons cake flour
Pinch of salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
Shot of brandy, bourbon, or whiskey
2 1/2 cups sliced or slivered almonds, toasted
Make the sweet tart dough:
1. Cream butter and sugar until combined. Add heavy cream, egg yolk, and vanilla. Beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour and salt, mix until just combined.
2. Turn out the mixture onto a lightly floured surface and form into an oblong disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-by-13 pan.
4. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle the shape of the pan. It’s easiest to roll the dough into several pieces first, then transfer the pieces to the pan and press them together. Press your dough into the bottom of the pan, and slightly up the sides.
5. Cover the dough with a sheet of parchment paper. Place dried beans or pie weights over the dough and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and parchment paper and bake for another 5 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack. Leave the oven on while you make the filling.
Make the filling:
6. In a medium bowl, toss together the dried cherries, orange peel, cake flour, and salt. Set aside.
7. In a large saucepan over medium heat, stir together the sugar, heavy cream, honey, and butter. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and bring the mixture to the soft ball stage, approximately 240 degrees (this will take approximately 10-15 minutes). Do not stir the mixture while it is coming to this stage.
8. Once the mixture reaches 240 degrees, add the shot of bourbon and remove from heat. Fold in the dry ingredients and almonds. Pour the mixture into the crust and spread evenly.
9. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden and bubbly. Cool completely before cutting.
Adapted from here.