Blackberry Pie Bars

Blackberry Pie Bars.

Blackberry Pie Bars.

Once again I’ve been called upon to provide the dessert for a pot-luck affair.  As we approach the end of the school year, many other activities also take a break for the summer and the last meeting of many organizations often involve food in the form of a picnic or pot-luck dinner.  So here we go again —-not that I mind,  it gives me the chance to bake, maybe try out something new, and then tell you all about it.  How cool is that?

Buttery crumb crust, creamy blackberry filling, more buttery crumbs on top.

Buttery crumb crust, creamy blackberry filling, more buttery crumbs on top.

While today’s recipe is called “pie’ bars, they’re not really like pie at all.  There is a bottom crust made of buttery crumbs, with a sprinkle of more crumbs to top, and in the middle a “berry” filling.  The recipe calls for black berries and that is what I used here, but I’ve made these before using raspberries, and they were super yummy too.  These bars are quick to put together, and are a great way to use up frozen berries you might have in your freezer;  you know, to make room for more berries over the summer.

Oh yeah, these are simply the best!.

Oh yeah, these are simply the best!.

I added a little lemon zest to the crust, and lemon juice to the filling and I think it brightens up the flavor, and makes an irresistible combination.  They bake up quite thick, so I cut them into small-ish squares to be eaten with fingers, but if serving them on a plate, these would be set off nicely by a dab of vanilla ice cream.  I like them while still a little warm from the oven, but they are also excellent served chilled straight from the fridge.  Once you give these a try they will undoubtedly become a staple for bringing to summertime parties and get-togethers.  Be adventurous and try other fruits as well.

BLACKBERRY PIE BARSIMG_4227

Yield:  16 – 20 bars

Ingredients:

For the crust and topping:

  • 1  1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch salt
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 3/4 cup (12 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, cold

    Blackberries----the stars of  the show!.

    Blackberries—-the stars of
    the show!.

For the filling:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
  • 6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 15 – 16 oz. blackberries, fresh or frozen (thawed and drained of excess juices)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Line a 9 x 9 inch baking pan with foil and grease lightly.  In the bowl of a food processor or electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest.  Pulse briefly to blend.  Cut the butter into small pieces, then add to the bowl with the dry ingredients.  Process in short pulses to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until only small pieces of butter remain and the mixture is crumbly.

Reserve 3/4 cup of the mixture for topping the bars.  Add the rest of the mixture to the  prepared pan and press to form an even layer of crust on the bottom of the pan.  Bake 12 – 15 minutes, until light golden.  Let cool 10 -15 minutes before proceeding.

In a medium bowl, make the filling mixture.  Combine the eggs, sugar, sour cream, flour, salt, lemon juice an vanilla.  Whisk until smooth.  Gently stir in the blackberries with a spatula.  Spread the filling mixture over the pre-baked crust in the baking pan.  Crumble the reserved topping mixture evenly over the filling.

Bake until the top is beginning to brown and the bars are just set, about 45 minutes.  Let cool completely on a wire rack.  Chill to firm up before slicing and serving.

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SOURCE:   The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather

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Blackberry Jam

I’ve made a plan for my postings this week around the theme of  “berries”.  Each day I’ll have a recipe that uses fresh berries in a different way. Looking into my crystal ball I see a lot of baking in my future, and along with that I see the pounds/weight going up.  I guess I’ll also need to increase my dancing in order to work off the calories.  Any way you look at it its a win-win situation:  more baking which I love, more dancing which I love, and more blogging;  all for you, my dear readers!   So to begin, here’s  the story about my adventures in making homemade blackberry jam.

It’s always a challenge and an adventure when you pick blackberries!   Not too far away from where I live there is a farm which features “pick-your-own” fruits, beginning with strawberries in the spring, right through to apples and pears in the fall.  My favorite fruits to pick are raspberries and blackberries.  Blackberry picking has not started yet, so what is pictured is the farm open for this year’s harvest of raspberries.

When you drive down the lane to where the bushes are located you can see the berries hanging heavy on the branches.  Blackberry bushes are planted in rows with straw beneath them to keep down the weeds, and they grow thick and high.  The best berries are the inky black ones, and they are usually found deep into the bush.  Oh, did I mention that blackberry bushes have THORNS?   Yes, well no matter how carefully you try to avoid them those thorns will bite you.  So to get those wonderful fat, juicy, black berries you must suffer.  When you have picked your limit and set out for home, there will be blackberry juice, scratches and dried blood on your arms and legs and a blackberry stain around your mouth.  (Who can pick without tasting?)   Anyone would think you have been in a fight.

Why do I do this year after year?  Because it’s so worth it.  There are so many things you can do with blackberries like make jam, pie, cobbler, liqueur, and sauce.  They freeze beautifully.  Just lay them out on a baking sheet. Stick in the freezer for a while and when frozen place in zip-lock bags for future use.   Today I will share with you my recipe for blackberry jam.

BLACKBERRY JAM

Yield:  6   six-ounce glasses

  • 6 cups blackberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 3/4 – 1 cup orange juice
  • 3 – 4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon grated orange zest

Cook the berries with water until they are heated through.  Crush the berries and rub through a sieve to remove the seeds.  Add sugar, fruit juices and grated orange zest.  Cook over low heat until thick.  Because blackberries are naturally high in pectin,  and the juices add citric acid,  this mixture thickens well without the addition of more pectin.

While the berries are cooking I put my jars, lids and rings in the dishwasher and run it to wash and sterilize the jars.  Then as the berry mixture is thickened and ready to be jarred, I remove the hot jars one at a time from the dishwasher, (keep the other jars hot)  fill it leaving about 1/8  inch space at the top.  Wipe jar rims and threads.  Cover with two-piece lids and screw bands on tightly.  As each jar is filled and covered, immediately turn it upside down on a dish towel.  After about 5 minutes turn jars upright.  Soon you will hear a snap/pop sound as the vacuum forms and the jars become sealed.  This is so neat!  There will be no need to boil jam-filled jars in a large kettle to achieve this same result.  If for some reason a jar does not make a seal, then that’s the one you can start to enjoy right away.

This jam was made last summer.  As long as it is well sealed it will keep for several years on your pantry shelf.  I like to give a jar of jam and home baked bread as a Holiday gift or Hostess gift when I am visiting.  It is always welcome.

SOURCE:  Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook   ? edition.  This wonderful cookbook was given to me as a wedding gift, and it has seen much use over the years.  It is well worn and well loved.