Sour Cherry Crumb Bars
It’s crazy to think I had gone nearly three decades on this planet never having eaten a cherry. When asked why I could only point to an irrational childhood phobia of choking on a cherry pit. Back in those days, if you swallowed a seed, legend said the fruit would grow in your stomach. But I’m a changed woman! After a visit to Tougas Family Farm in Northborough, MA and an afternoon of pick-your-own, I can confidently say that I am a big time cherry fan.
I was lucky enough to catch a harvest of Sour Cherries, which I’m told is only a few short weeks out of the year. Sour Cherries pack a flavorful tart punch and their bright red color looks pulled straight from a drawing you’d do of a cherry in elementary school.
With my bounty, I created a recipe for Sour Cherry Crumb Bars. These bars have a buttery shortbread crust, followed by a generous layer of thickened sour cherry filling (highlighted by grated fresh ginger) and a crumble more shortbread on top. I preferred mine cold, cut into crisp squares. They tasted like a hand-held slice of classic cherry pie - no forks required!
Sour Cherry Crumb Bars
For the Filling:
2 cups pitted, coarsely chopped sour cherries (from 1 pint)
1 cup cherry jam
1/2 cup sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons peeled, freshly grated ginger root
For the Crust:
3½ cups all-purpose flour
1¼ cups granulated sugar
1¼ teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1¼ cups (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, chilled & cut into bits
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the quarter-baking sheet with cooking oil spray, then line it with parchment paper.
Combine the cherries, cherry jam, sugar, cornstarch and ginger root in a mixing bowl, set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until well combined.
Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal with small pea-sized pieces of butter. (Alternatively, process in your food processor until mixture is crumbly.)
In a small bowl, whisk vanilla into beaten egg yolks using a fork. With a fork, gently toss into flour mixture until moistened and dough starts to hold together. Continue to toss and blend gently with fingertips until well combined yet taking care not to overwork the dough.
Remove 2 generous cups of the crumb mixture and set aside for the topping in a small bowl.
Press remaining dough evenly into prepared baking pan.
Spoon Sour Cherry Filling into pan on top of dough and spread evenly with rubber spatula; sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.
Bake in preheated oven until topping is golden brown and filling is cooked through and bubbly, about 45 to 55 minutes. To prevent over-browning of topping, cover with sheet of aluminum foil during last 20 minutes of baking.