Author Notes: Growing up, it sometimes seemed as if my sisters and I were the only kids around without a Grandma. Grandmothers were all around: visiting our friends at holiday time, taking children to movies, baking cookies for them. Not us. In my only picture of our grandmother, my mother, as a wide-eyed little girl, sits beside her, hair plaited in two neat thick little braids, wearing her best dress and a hand-crocheted collar. Next to her sits my grandmother, her soft brown eyes with a faraway look in them. My mother was about seven when she and Grampa lost her. She was loved and missed by all who knew her.
I grew up eating these buttery, crumbly bars, never suspecting their source. So last night when I called my mother for this recipe, and to double-check their source (Betty Crocker? Mrs. G.?) I was surprised and moved to learn that they were my grandmother's. Not that my mother knew the measurements or amounts. She says she watched her mother make them time and again as a very little girl. When she (and Grampa) finally escaped and came to this country to start a new life, my mother married and had a family. She reconstructed the recipe from memory. I'm so happy to have just one "handed down" recipe and to share it here. - creamtea
Makes a 13 x 9 or 7 1/2 x 11 inch pan of bar cookies
For the filling
- 3/4 cups Morello (sour) cherry preserves (from red, not black cherries--I used Trader Joe's "Fresh" brand);
- 1/2 - 1 teaspoon almond extract
For the crumble
- butter for greasing the pan
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 dash salt
- 1/2 cup plus 2 T granulated sugar
- 3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted (sweet) butter, cut into cubes and chilled
- 1 large egg, beaten
- Grease the bottom and sides of a 7 1/2 x 11" pan (I use Pyrex). Pre-heat oven to 350º.
- In a small bowl, combine the preserves with the almond extract and set aside.
- Sift the dry ingredients into a medium bowl.
- Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture to form pea-sized and smaller lumps. Drizzle in the egg, tossing with a fork to combine.
- Empty a little more than half the flour mixture into the pan. Shake the pan to distribute evenly, then pat down the dough lightly with your hands, just enough to compact it a little so it will cut neatly after baking.
- Spoon the preserve mixture over the dough along its length. Save a few spoonfuls to drizzle into the corners.
- Carefully spread the preserves over the dough using a flexible spatula. This is a little tricky, because the dough wants to rise up and bond with the preserves. A "roll with the waves" motion works best: press lightly, lift, travel, repeat. Spoon a little more into whatever corners need it. Do not strive for perfection here, we're talking homey.
- When the preserves are spread, tip the bowl with the remainder of the crumbs over them, shake the pan to distribute, and once again, press lightly into place.
- Bake about 35-40 minutes until golden. Remove and cool on a rack. Carefully cut into squares. Serve with tea or coffee .