Thursday, 25 December 2008

Aunt Helen's Raspberry Rice Squares

If there is one thing I associate with Christmas it's "squares". When I was a kid we looked forward at Christmas to receiving a care package from one of the great-aunts - Aunt Hilda I'm pretty sure, not Aunt Helen, but maybe it was Aunt Alethea or Aunt Florence, or maybe it was a joint effort - which always contained a present for us kids (something hand-knit,) a fruit cake and selection of baking; cookies and squares. Later on when we went to visit various great-aunts for the holidays, there was always a good selection of squares to sample. I always looked for these ones, made by Aunt Helen.

Aunt Helen's husband worked for Dainty Rice and so Aunt Helen had lots of rice based recipes (and of course no member of the family dared to buy any other brand of rice until long after Uncle Leonard had retired, or possibly even died.)

When we put together a collection of family recipes a few years later I lobbied for this particular recipe to be included. I was happy to note that if a rice-based pastry was used as the bottom layer, these become gluten-free. You may however, use whatever type of pastry you like best as the bottom layer; it should be lightly pre-baked.

25 squares
1 hour 30 minutes - 1 hour prep time, plus time to ice the next day

Aunt Helen's Raspberry Rice Squares
To Make the Pastry:
1 cup white rice flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup ice-cold water

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Mix the flour and salt together, then cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until it is in pieces the size of a small pea. Mix in the cold water, and stir until the mixture begins to stick together. Press the dough evenly over the bottom of a 9" x 9" baking pan.

Bake the pastry for 5 to 7 minutes, until it looks semi-firm. Don't overbake it. Set it aside to cool. Reset the oven to 350°F.

To Finish Baking the Squares:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 extra-large eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2/3 cup white rice flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 to 3/4 cup raspberry jam

Cream the butter, and work in the sugar, until well blended and light. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the almond extract.

Mix the salt and baking powder into the flour.

Spread the jam evenly over the prepared crust.

Mix the flour into the butter and egg mixture, and spread the resulting batter evenly over the jam. It will seem like it isn't a lot of batter, and you will need a spatula to help you.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until just firm. Let cool. Once they are cool I generally wrap them and ice them the next day, but they can be iced any time they are completely cool.

To Ice the Squares:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup icing sugar
2-3 tablespoons milk
a drop or 2 of red food-colouring, if desired

Cream the butter well and mix in the icing sugar alternately with a few drops of milk to keep the mixture somewhat loose. When all the sugar is in, and you have a good spreading consistency, you can add a little food-colour. I practically never use food colour, but I do think a bit of pink in the icing here emphasizes and balances the jam visually. I also don't make these more than once a year - they are inextricably linked to Christmas for me.

At any rate, ice the completely cooled cake and cut it into squares. Keep them in a well-sealed tin or freeze them if you are not going to be eating them within a week.

Last year at this time I made Apple & Lemon Bread or Rice Pudding, and Icebox Cookies in Four Variations.

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