Raspberry apricot bars are easier than pie

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Pie can be scary. I made this unhappy discovery at age 2, standing unsteady and tear-streaked in the family VW bus. I had pie in hand, fierce resistance on face. No way.

The problem was this: too much middle. The crust looked safe, but underneath lurked a sinkhole of goo. Scary.

Making pie can be scary too. It takes practice to get the fruit to set neither runny nor gummy and the pastry to bake up both flaky and reliable. My first pie — cracked, craggy, congealed — lives on in family lore. Not the good kind of lore.

Which might be why the fruit bar is such a pleasure. It's like pie, but simpler, smaller and sturdier. Plus the low-lying bar has an admirable outer-to-inner ratio: about 1:1. Leaving nothing to pout about.

Raspberry Apricot Bars

Prep: 20 minutes / Bake: 1 hour / Makes: 24 bars.

For the Middle:

2 cups raspberries

1/3 cup sugar

3 cups cubed apricots (about 6 apricots)

For the Top:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup pecan halves

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

½ cup sugar

½ cup flour

For the Bottom:

1 ½ cups flour

½ cup sugar

¼ teaspoon fine salt

12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut up

Mash: To make middle, sprinkle raspberries with sugar. Mash with a fork (don’t worry if raspberries are reduced to slush). Stir in apricots. Set aside.

Toast: To make top, melt butter in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Add pecans, salt and nutmeg and cook, stirring, until butter is speckled brown, about 5 minutes. Pull pan off heat. Stir in sugar, then flour. Chill.

Pulse: To make bottom, measure flour, sugar and salt into the food processor. Buzz once to mix. Add butter and pulse to big clumps.

Bake: Butter a 13x9x2 baking pan. Line with parchment paper, leaving some overhang. Dump in clumps. Pat pastry across bottom of pan. Poke several times with a fork. Slide into the lower third of a 375-degree oven and bake until pastry is lightly golden, about 20 minutes.

Brown: Spread fruit over pastry. Sprinkle on chilled top — fruit will not be fully covered. Return pan to oven and bake until fruit is bubbly and top is browned, about 40 minutes. Cool completely. Grasp the parchment overhang and lift out the whole contraption; slice into 24 bars.