Okay, here it comes — cover your eyes if you’re not in for a bitch fest or if you hate delicious summer fruit (psych! no one hates delicious summer fruit).
What is up with the weather?
I’m starting to feel like we’re getting a bum deal on our yearly allotment of summer heat around here.
The markets I saw in Europe were bursting with rainbows of fresh fruit (even in May!) and reading about the “warm desserts for cold winter nights” from my foodie friends Down Under is making my eye twitch — your nightly low is my daily high!
Uh, like… hello? This is jealousy talking — can I come visit you?
I went to the local farmers market last Sunday, armed with cloth bags and cold, hard cash for bundles of berries, and what did I see? Strawberries, strawberries, strawberries!
Aaaand that was pretty much it. Just strawberries — all of our other local crops are late.
So, what do you do when life gives you strawberries? Make strawberry bars!
These sweet and sticky bars are full of fresh strawberry flavour and buttery nuttiness, all while being soft in the middle and crunchy on top — oh, and did I mention that they have a delicate and crumby base?
Now, I diced and cooked fresh strawberries down with a bit of sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract to make my own strawberry preserves, but store-bought ones will work fine for this recipe, too.
I recommend using low-sugar preserves, just because these bars are sweet enough as is, but be wary of some “low-sugar” products — some companies add aspartame or sucralose instead, just to cover up the fact that they don’t preserve their berries at the height of ripeness.
Also, don’t let the three-step recipe deter you — these whip up real fast and taste just like summer!
*adapted from Marie Simmons
for the brandied glaze…
- 5 tablespoons (70g) unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons (30g) honey
- 1/4 cup (60ml) brandy
- 1/4 cup (50g) sugar
for the lemon-scented shortbread crust…
- 1 & 3/4 cups (220g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (112g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- zest of 1 large lemon
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 3 ~ 4 drops almond extract
for strawberry preserves layer…
- 1 cup (260g) unsweetened strawberry preserves, homemade
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon (12g) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (80g) sliced almonds
Start with the brandied glaze: simply combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil for 1 minute, remove from heat, and set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.
Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper that comes up the side of the pan — this will help you remove the bars later.
Next, make the lemon-scented shortbread crust. Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl.
Drop in the cold cubes of butter and zest a lemon directly over the bowl of sifted ingredients (lots of fragrant citrus oil in the mix = yes)! Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, work the butter into the other ingredients until it is evenly distributed and the mixture has the appearance of coarse sand.
Lightly beat one egg with a few drops of almond extract, then add to the crumbly crust mixture. Work in the egg until the dough looks homogenous.
Turn the dough out into the bottom of the prepared pan and press it down into an even layer.
If necessary, puree the strawberry preserves and lemon juice in a food processor until it becomes an easily spreadable consistency. Whisk in 1 tablespoon of flour.
Spread the strawberry preserves evenly over the shortbread crust.
Sprinkle the sliced almonds over the strawberry layer, followed by an even drizzle of the brandied glaze.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 ~ 32 minutes, or until the edges have browned and the strawberry-almond layer no longer appears foamy.
Cool completely before cutting and serving. Store leftover bars in the refrigerator.
Now, usually I’m not an “edges” kind of gal, but the edges of these bars baked up so tender and chewy that I left them on instead of trimming them off like I normally do — in fact, they were almost the best part!
Recommended pairing: a mug of black tea and a sunny afternoon… y’know, if one ever comes around. Yum!