Monday, August 20, 2012

And they were

There are people who get excited simply by looking at a plate of food. They eat with their eyes first, feasting on it before they have even taken a single bite. Needless to say, I am one of those people.

I'm a very visual person and if something looks good, it immediately tempts me to eat it. I salivate in anticipation but sometimes, unfortunately, I get disappointed. Every so often, food, as well as all else in life, is not what it seems.

I have many a time tried different kinds of food, from street food to desserts, driven by their alluring look or mystifying aroma, only to be let down after the first taste.

There are times, however, when I see an ugly plate of food, something that is so totally unappealing that I want to turn around and run away from it and yet, when I do try it, I am amazed. Because, my friends, not everything that looks good, tastes good, and not everything that looks bad, tastes worse.

When this nectarine jam and semolina biscuit came out of the oven, it wasn't looking that good to me. It was too dark, the color of the nectarine jam was not as vivid anymore and it seemed uncooked in the middle. I was overtly disappointed, telling S how it was a waste of time and effort, and I even doubted my own sense of smell when it was dictating to my brain that what I was about to taste would be heavenly. And it was.

Full of buttery goodness and sweetness from the dark brown sugar, with a biscuit that was moist and soft in the middle and deliciously crumbly on the outside, covered by a lace of nectarine jam that added another level of sweetness and a hint of tartness as well. I doubted the possibility that these could be the best biscuit bars I'd ever have the pleasure to eat. And they were.

Nectarine Jam and Semolina Biscuit Bars
Biscuit recipe adapted from Donna Hay

I used my own nectarine jam and I have also made these bars using strawberry jam, but I can't wait to try them with my fig jam. Choose whichever one you enjoy the most and make these, pronto.

By the way, if you're Greek, this may remind you of a pasta flora but it's not. It may look like pasta flora but the taste and texture of the biscuit is very different and in my opinion much much better.

Yield: 9 large or 16 small bars

270 g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing the pan
130 g soft dark brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 small eggs
250 g all-purpose flour
135 g fine semolina
320 g nectarine jam

Special equipment: 20x20 cm square baking pan, baking paper, stand or hand-held mixer, piping bag with 1 cm round nozzle

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 350 Fahrenheit.

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large bowl) add the butter, soft dark brown sugar and vanilla and beat, using the paddle attachment (or with your hand-held mixer), on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after the addition of each egg. Add the flour and fine semolina and beat on medium-high speed until well combined but be careful not to overmix. You should end up with a soft biscuit dough.

Measure 1½ cups of the biscuit dough and put it into your piping bag fitted with a 1 cm nozzle, or if you're using a disposable piping bag, you can cut the tip, as I do.

Butter the bottom and sides of your pan and line the bottom with a piece of baking paper, leaving an overhang; it will come in handy later on when you remove the bars from the pan. Butter the baking paper and spread the remaining biscuit dough into the pan, leveling the top with the back of a spoon or a spatula.

Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 16-18 minutes or until the biscuit has taken on a golden color. Remove the pan from the oven and spread the jam evenly over the top of the biscuit. Pipe the reserved biscuit dough around the edges of the pan, creating a frame, and then pipe 3 vertical and 3 horizontal lines, creating 16 squares. Return the pan to the oven and bake for a further 20-22 minutes or until golden-brown.

Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack. Allow the biscuit to cool inside the pan and then remove it, holding it by the overhanging baking paper, and place it on a cutting board. You need to be a bit careful when you remove it from the pan, it may be a little soft. Transfer it quickly so it doesn't crack. Cut with a large, sharp knife into 9 large or 16 smaller pieces and enjoy.

You can keep them at room temperature, covered, for up to 5 days.


  1. I think it looks lovely! I am excited about diving into stone fruits here soon and this slice would be perfect to take to work for morning tea!

  2. I have some homemade apricot jam I think will be perfect for this. It's true I thought it was Pasta Flora at first! Thanks for the recipe.
    Eleni @ On Top Of Spaghetti

  3. What a beautiful blog and what a lovely pictures! I didn't know you, but now i'm youre new follower!

  4. Your jam really got my attention last time and now these! They look divine to me; if you simply change the sugar to white you'll get a contrast of colors between the jam and the pastry and voilà!

  5. Anna — thank you, I'm glad you like it!

    Eleni — hehe I knew every Greek who'd see this, they'd think it's pasta flora, that's I wrote that it's not ;)

    Tine — thanks.

    Nell — welcome, thank you!

    Joumana — yes, I figured, but I prefer the flavor of the soft dark brown sugar. Especially in biscuits!

  6. How could you ever doubt yourself! These look amazing, and I will try them with my peach jam!

  7. Beautiful Bars! I really like the creative way you added crust to the top in a graphic pattern. They sound like they would taste very, very wonderful

  8. This is looking good to me, and I love the sound of a dark brown sugar semolina crust. Wish I had a huge piece now.

  9. The biscuits look awesome, I love their homemade look....I know what you mean when you say being disappointed tasting a food after being dazzled by its look or smell...this often happens to me, I love the smell but then when I taste it, I feel let down. Coffee is one beverage which I love the smell of, but do not like the taste of, much!

  10. the adage is, first we eat with our eyes....
    so I completely understand your feeling. the dark look of the dessert would have thrown off balance too. Looks can be deceiving, and those humble treats can be the best. (I can think of many very pretty French pastries that dazzle the eyes and disappoint the tongue.)
    I can imagine these would be especially wonderful with fig jam.

  11. That happens to me too at times. What I worry about is when something I make looks great and tastes disappointing. This is the better option for sure!