Coconut shortbread with blueberries and banana frangipane

Banana blueberry bar cookies

Banana blueberry bar cookies

I think I was visited by three spirits of parenting last night. Not past, present, and future precisely, but maybe representing varying degrees of parenting flaws. I had three bad parenting-anxiety dreams in a row, and woke up each time feeling confused and flattened. Why? I asked myself? Why now? We’ve been spending a lot of time together lately, Isaac and Malcolm and I, with their holiday from school. Mostly it’s been very fun – we’ve gone for walks, played games, cuddled on the couch and read. But I have had a few bratty outbursts of anger, and therein lies the guilt. I yelled at a crying Isaac for letting the dog take his food. In fact, when I sprayed her with her bad-dog spray bottle (for taking the food) I sprayed him, too, which, amazingly, did nothing to quell his tears. And I cursed at Malcolm. I think that’s the one. I could tell you about five heavy bags of groceries, 3 nights of insomnia, 2 coats and children sprawled on the floor in my path, and one sassy and hurtful comment. I could tell you about how I felt so childishly hurt that I didn’t want to apologize. But there’s no excuse. I shouldn’t – I don’t – talk to anyone in the world like that, so how could I speak like that to Malcolm, my son, my friend? I did apologize, of course, but it has weighed heavily on me, and it’s coming out in my dreams. I was thinking about one of the dreams after I woke up, and maybe it is a premonition of parenting future – at least a preview of the kind of anxiety that must only get worse with time. In the dream, Malcolm and Isaac and I were exploring a cave. We were having a nice time, and they were looking forward to finding the center of the cave, which held a pool they could play in. But we got to one part that was tight and winding, we had to crawl upwards in a space not much bigger than our bodies. I’m a bit phobic about close, winding, airless spaces in real life – caves and lighthouses and crawl spaces – and apparently I am in dreams, as well, because I decided to head out of the cave. I told them to go on ahead, that I’d wait for them at the entrance. I thought about them, winding through the cave; I told myself, they’d be alright without me. Cut to: hours later, I was in a room crowded with people. I don’t know where I was or how I got there, but suddenly it dawned on me that I wasn’t waiting outside the cave for my boys. I panicked, in my dream, and woke up in my bed, in a sweat, straining my ears for the sound of the boys snoring gently in their room. But that’s what it’s going to be like going into the future, isn’t it? They’ll want to explore things on their own, and I’ll have to let them go, and I’ll think, as I did in the dream, that they probably make it home safely without me. When the boys wake up from a nightmare, I always say (like a broken record) “It was just a dream, you’re safe and warm and mommy and daddy love you.” Hopefully I’ve said it enough that they’ll always remember, even when I’m not with them on their adventures. Hopefully they’ll remember that, and not the bad-tempered moments.

Well, enough of this little dream-journal confessional. Let’s talk about cookies! We bought a bunch of adorable tiny bananas, thinking that the boys would like them. They rarely ever finish a regular-sized banana, so this seemed like a good solution. Sadly, the tiny bananas were greeted with indifference. So we had quite a few rapidly ripening bananas to dispose of. I wanted to make something different from banana bread or banana cake, for a change, and I had the idea of combining the bananas with almonds, sugar and eggs, to make a banana frangipane. Fun to say, and good to eat!! I also wanted to remake the coconut shortbread layer of the cherry chocolate cookies I’d made the other week, because I had a nagging doubt that I’d gotten a measurement wrong. So we have a layer of shortbread, a layer of good blueberry preserves, (I used bonne maman, ironically!) and a layer of banana frangipane. It turned out nice! Soft, flavorful, but not too strongly banana-y – more of a haunting fruity sweetness that goes beautifully with the almond flavor. The cookies are like a newton, maybe, in texture. Newtonian. But without the seediness.

Here’s Tom Waits with Innocent When You Dream.

1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened (10 tablespoons)
1 cup icing sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1 T sherry
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 t salt
2/3 cup shredded coconut

1/2 (+/-) cup good blueberry preserves (I used Bonne maman)

BANANA FRANGIPANE

1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup mashed banana
2/3 cups icing sugar
2 eggs
3 T flour
1 t vanilla
pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350.

Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the sugar till nice and smooth, and then beat in the egg. Stir in the vanilla and sherry. Add the flour and salt, and stir till you have a fairly stiff batter. Mix in the coconut.

Butter and flour a brownie tin or roasting pan that’s about 8 X 12, or thereabouts. Spread the batter in an even layer on the bottom – flour it lightly if it sticks to your fingers. Spread a thin layer of good cherry preserves on top.

In a processor combine all of the ingredients for the banana frangipane, and process until very smooth. I left the processor going for a few minutes. It should be pale and creamy.

Pour this over the blueberry preserves. Pop the whole thing in the oven, and cook for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top feels firm and starts to turn a bit golden on the edges. Let cool, and cut into squares.

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