Cherry crumb bars are reminiscent of an American classic, cherry pie, but are less messy, so they're perfect for a potluck or picnic!
Just last week, I was walking my dogs at night in a winter jacket, and sleeping under 2 blankets at night. Then seemingly overnight, the temperature AND the humidity shot up to summer-like weather! Time to install the wall-unit air conditioner! I’m not sure what happened to spring, but I’m not complaining about the warmth!
One of the perks of living where we do is that we have a beautiful park 2 ½ blocks from our apartment. Back on Mother’s Day, we took cheese, charcuterie, fruit and water to the park for a family picnic. We picnic there often anytime we feel like eating outside, sometimes bringing bikes and scooters, sometimes we bring a Frisbee, or sometimes we just play tag.
There are so many things that could be considered picnic or potluck foods. I like foods that can be served at room temperature, since it’s difficult to keep hot or cold foods at safe temperatures. I also like to serve a dessert comprised of fruit rather than chocolate, since chocolate melts so easily, and can get MESSY.
When I think of fruit desserts, one of the first things I think of is pie. But pie is REALLY messy, requires a plate and fork, and it’s difficult to eat at a picnic if you don’t have a picnic table. At our local park, we eat on our picnic blanket.
So, I turned cherry pie into a cherry crumb bars. It starts with a shortbread cookie crust, then cherries sweetened with sugar and almond extract. If you don’t have almond extract, or can’t use it due to allergies, vanilla extract works really well, too.
Finally, some reserved shortbread dough is mixed with additional flour to create crumbs to sprinkle over top of the cherries. All the deliciousness of cherry pie, no plate and fork needed!
For the crust and crumb topping:
- 16 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature, 2 sticks
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
For the filling:
- 1 lb fresh sweet cherries, stemmed, pitted and quartered (or 12 oz frozen pitted cherries, thawed and quartered)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line an 9x13-inch baking pan with tinfoil or parchment paper, letting it hang over the edges of two opposite sides.
- In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the cherries, sugar, cornstarch and almond extract. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and salt until light in color. Add 2 cups of the flour and stir just until combined.
- Transfer ¼ cup of the crust mixture to a small mixing bowl and set aside.
- Press the remaining crust mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking pan, and use your fingers to pack it down into an even layer and into all the corners.
- Spread the cherry mixture in an even layer over the crust.
- To the reserved crust mixture, add the remaining ¼ cup of flour. Mix into the crust mixture with a pastry cutter, two forks, or your fingers, until fine crumbs form. Sprinkle this over the cherry mixture.
- Bake for 45 minutes, until the cherry mixture is bubbly and the crumb topping is golden brown.
- Set the baking pan on a wire rack to cool completely. Slice into 2-inch by 3-inch bars and serve. Store covered at room temperature.
Recipe by The Redhead Baker
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