Sunday, July 12, 2015

Strawberry Jam Shortbread Bars




I have lived in my apartment over a year and, little by little, I have been exploring the area of North Andover/Andover, MA.  The other day I read that it was the first day of the season for corn.  I waited until Ryan came home from work and we headed off to about 3 or 4 farm/farm stands.  Some were better than others.  I can imagine what they will be like in the Fall.  Our favorite was Smolak Farms in North Andover. They had such a cute shop that had lots of specialty food items, homemade donuts and ice cream, etc..  I was able to taste  their homemade strawberry jam and I was immediately hooked.  I have been collecting different jams lately from Stonewall Kitchen, York, ME.  Those samples will get you every time.  As soon as I tasted the strawberry jam, I knew I had to get it and make a yummy dessert.  I found a recipe online from  Recipe Girl, which I have adapted.  Enjoy this buttery, sweet, fruity bar.  






1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
3/4 cup light brown sugar (firmly packed)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup almond flour or finely ground almonds
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups strawberry jam (you can use whatever flavor you want) 18-20 oz.
confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. 

If  you don't have almond flour, and are making this on the fly like I am, you can grind almonds.  



I tried to grind them in my Vitamix, but it appears not to be working (contacted them through email since I think it is still under warranty.  Anyway ........  I smashed them with this Pampered Chef meat tenderizer.  I'm not endorsing Pampered Chef, but this is literally the best tool I own.  I don't just use it for meat, though.  I use it  to smash anything that needs to be broken into small pieces.  I figure I can always use it as a weapon if I have to :)



After I smashed the almonds as small as I can, I then put it in the chopper and finished the job.




I know this sounds like a lot of work, but I actually ground the almonds a lot earlier in the day and did it while I was doing other things, so it worked out great.  I don't know how much almond flour costs, but I have read online that it is kind of costly.  I will have to compare the price of whole almonds compared to almond flour.  As far as I know, you cannot replace the almond flour with all-purpose flour because it's not really flour at all, just ground nuts.  Okay, you can now move on to actually making the bars.

After you place the butter into the mixing bowl, use the wrappers to grease a 9x13 pan.


  
Add the brown and granulated sugar to the 3 sticks of butter in the mixing bowl; beat until creamy.  Add vanilla and salt and mix until well incorporated.




Add the almond flour and all-purpose flour into the butter mixture and mix on low speed.



After you have a smooth dough, divide the dough in half.  Place half the dough in the dish.  Smooth the dough evenly into the bottom.  Bake the crust until lightly browned, 20 minutes.  







Take the other half of the dough and wrap it into waxed paper.  Place in freezer until the crust is done baking in the oven.




While the crust is in the oven, empty the jam into a bowl and mix until smooth.




Remove the baked bottom crust from the oven, making sure the edges are lightly browned.  It will be very soft and undercooked.



Spread the jam evenly over the crust.  Since the crust is quite hot, this is really easy to accomplish.




Take the other half of the dough out of the freezer.  Break off small pieces and place on top of the jam.  I found that I spread the pieces too far apart and then had so much dough left over that I was squishing them next to each other.  





Place the dish back into the oven for 30 minutes.  The topping should be browned, but it will still be a little soft.  Place the dish on a wire rack.  Cool for 30 minutes, then place it in the refrigerator until completely cool.  Cut into squares.  I started to cut them into fairly good size squares, but realized that they are really sweet and rich, so I cut the rest into smaller squares.




You can keep the bars in a covered container for a week or in the freezer for a month.  If you are like me, I keep everything in the freezer.  It doesn't take long to pull out one or two bars and let them defrost.  When you are ready to serve, sprinkle confectioners' sugar lightly over the top. 



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