Is there an unsaid rule that bar cookies have to be heavy and gooey? Two weeks ago, we picked up a cup of coffee on our way to the park so that the little monkey could continue his path of destruction outside our apartment, and I fell for something in the bakery case called peach shortbread, cut into bars. But instead of being thick and intense, it was delicate, light and barely sweet — a thin layer of shortbread, even thinner slices of peach and the faintest sprinkling of streusel on top. I knew I had to share it.
And it wasn’t until I had jotted down “peach streusel bar” on my to-do list that I remembered a recipe for brown butter peach bars from that I found in a preview of The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook in The New York Times nearly three years ago, and have pined for since. (This recipe didn’t make it into the cookbook, but a rhubarb version — that looked almost as time-consuming and delicious — did.) Every summer, I swear, I’m going to summon the energy to make them. First, you make a peach jam from fresh peaches. It involves a candy thermometer. It takes an hour to cook. Then you brown butter and freeze it until solid. Then you make a crumb base with this butter, bake it for 20 minutes and let it cool. Then you make a custard filling with fresh vanilla bean, and brown more butter. This filling is spread over the baked crust, the peach jam is dolloped over that, and you bake it for 30 minutes more. I have no doubt that nirvana ensues, in fact, a reader recently told me that she tried them and they were absolutely worth it. But I got tired just typing this paragraph and I realized it was time for me to admit that it might not be worth it to me, especially since so much of time right now is spent doing things like this.