The bars are fairly sweet, with a butterscotch background. The apricots and pecans offer textural and flavor contrast. I used unsulfured Blenheim apricots from Trader Joes (Buy California Grown, and all that), and they were a bit too tough for this recipe (they are much better when used in cooked oatmeal cereal or other hot and wet dishes). It might be worthwhile to try pre-soaking the apricots to soften them, but one must be careful to fully dry the fruit before adding it to the batter. Nonetheless, they would be an excellent addition to a cookie tray.
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
2/3 cup dried apricots, chopped into 1/4″ pieces
2/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Butter a 9 x 13 x 2 inch pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper so that it runs down the middle of the pan and hangs over two of the sides (it could be the long sides or short sides). After the bars are finished you will use the paper to remove the bars from the pan for cooling and cutting.
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl (this bowl will not be the main mixing bowl, so only needs big enough to hold the flour).
Place the butter and brown sugar into a large mixing bowl. Use the paddle attachment if you have one. Beat the butter and sugar at medium-high speed for about a minute until well mixed and lightened. Add the vanilla extract, then the first egg, then the second egg, beating at medium speed between each addition.
Turn the mixer to low speed and add the flour mixture. Mix for a few seconds, then turn off the mixer. Remove the bowl and hand stir the mixture a few times with a wooden spoon or rubber scraper. Fold in the fruit and nuts.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, then use an offset spatula or other tool to smooth the top. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the top of the bars is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Turn halfway through baking for best results. After removing the pan from the oven, cool it on a rack for 10 minutes. Slice a knife along the edges where the bars contact the baking dish to separate, then remove the bars from the pan using the paper as an aid. Place on a cooking rack.
When the bars are cool, carefully remove the paper. Cut into 2-inch squares.
Store in an air-tight container with sheets of parchment or wax paper separating the layers.