Sossie Beile's Little Cherry Crumb Bars

By • October 27, 2011 • 20 Comments

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Author Notes: Growing up, it sometimes seemed as if my sisters and I were the only kids around without a grandma. Grandmothers were everywhere: 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 -- a wide-eyed little girl -- sits beside her, my mother's 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. They were living in a forced-labor camp under Nazi occupation when she became ill. She was loved and missed by all who knew her.

I grew up eating these buttery, crumbly bars, never suspecting their origin. So when I called my mother for the recipe, and to double-check its source (Betty Crocker? her best friend?), I was surprised and moved to learn that it was 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. After my mother (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 her childhood memory. I'm so happy to have just one "handed down" recipe and to share it here.
creamtea

Food52 Review: Heavenly! That's the first thing that comes to mind. They were very easy to make; some cooks might need to know that the base and top aren't a dough, and they might wonder if the bars will work -- but they do! Light and not very sweet, they're perfect with a cup of afternoon tea. *I used Dalmatia sour cherry spread (found at Whole Foods), which was the only sour cherry preserve I could find. Also, I used the pastry cutter instead of the fork to blend in the egg. Kin934

Makes a 9 x 13 or 7 1/2 x 11-inch pan of bar cookies

For the filling:

  • 3/4 cup Morello (sour) cherry preserves (from red -- not black -- cherries), and more as needed
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoons 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 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  1. Grease the bottom and sides of a 7 1/2 x 11-inch pan (I use Pyrex). Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the preserves with the almond extract and set aside. [Editors' note: We used a full, 13-ounce jar of cherry preserves and 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract.]
  3. Sift the dry ingredients into a medium bowl.
  4. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture to form lumps that are pea-sized and smaller. Drizzle in the egg, tossing with a fork to combine.
  5. Empty a little more than half of the flour mixture into the pan. Shake the pan to distribute evenly, then pat the dough down lightly with your hands, just enough to compact it a little so it will cut neatly after baking.
  6. Spoon the preserve mixture over the dough along its length. Save a few spoonfuls to drizzle into the corners.
  7. 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 jam into whatever corners need it. Do not strive for perfection here -- we're talking homey.
  8. When the preserves are spread, tip the bowl with the remainder of the crumbs over top, shake the pan to distribute, and once again, press lightly into place.
  9. Bake about 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden. Do not overbake or the bars will be dry. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool on a rack. Carefully cut into squares. Serve with a steaming cup of tea or coffee .
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2 months ago Amandadp

These were great! I used about one cup of jam and next time will use a little more as I found the jam layer was a bit thin for me. But still delicious and easy to make! Thanks for sharing!

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2 months ago creamtea

So thrilled you tried them! The jam layer is "flexible" and partly depends on the size of the pan you decide to use and how much sweetness you want in the filling.

Yoga_mudra

2 months ago Mia

I love recipes with stories behind them... thank you for sharing! I just made these, and made a few variations based on what I had on hand. I used homemade clementine-ginger marmalade (as I had been experimenting with marmalades lately) instead of cherry preserves. I also subbed vanilla extract for the almond extract, as I thought the latter might not go so well with the clementine-ginger flavor. I also used a combination of 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 cup of spelt flour - just because I had spelt flour and I find that it's ok in recipes that don't require a lot of air incorporated into the batter/dough (I don't have a scientific explanation for it, just based on a few times experimenting). I also added 2 handfuls of chopped walnuts to the top crumb, for extra crunch. The bars turned out great, and I'd love to make them again - just bought a jar of Bonne Maman cherry preserves for that purpose!

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2 months ago creamtea

Thank you for trying them, Mia! I make a version with sliced or slivered almonds on top. My mother just told me she sometimes uses apricot jam. A little tartness is a good foil to the sweetness of the crumbs.

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2 months ago alliejones

I love this story and this recipe. I made them last night in all their simple perfection (except in a food processor because: lazy). My husband came home late and sort of rolled his eyes at me when I said I had baked something, then came back (mouth full) and mumbled: " warm cherry bars? Are you kidding? Fantastic." Perfect with my mid morning coffee today and the kids will take care of the rest after school. Thanks for sharing!

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2 months ago creamtea

What a great response! I'm so delighted your husband liked them!!

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2 months ago cookbookchick

Heartbreaking.. I will make these for my husband, who loves cherries, and I will tell him the story of how they came to you. Thank you, creamtea, for sharing not only your family recipe, but the legacy of love and loss behind it.

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2 months ago creamtea

Thanks! Hope you do try them!

Open-uri.4355

3 months ago Dina Moore-Tzouris

Wow. That is amazing. Your story reminds me of Merrill's post about cooking with her daughter the other day. It is a beautiful reminder of what we learn and keep from our mothers at such an early age. My own 22 year old daughter lives in Vermont, while I live in New York. We often video chat and cook together!

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3 months ago creamtea

Thanks, Dina. I grew up loving these bars, but having the recipe a CP is very special to me.

Me

3 months ago TheWimpyVegetarian

These look wonderful!!! Congrats on the Community Pick!

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3 months ago creamtea

Thanks so much!

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over 1 year ago Fry cook

Thank you for this cream tea I am making this today for my loved ones. Grandmothers live on thru grandaughters
in delicious ways. Shalom.

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over 1 year ago creamtea

Thank you, Fry cook.

Parmigiano-reggiano_gal

over 1 year ago PRST

It is stories like this that make food and cooking so very special. Thank you for sharing. What a beautiful photograph!

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over 1 year ago creamtea

Thank you for your comment, PRST. Sometimes it's not only about the flavor, though that's important, but handing something down.

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over 1 year ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

What a sad story, creamtea. It's wonderful that this recipe can continue to be passed on.

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over 1 year ago creamtea

Thank you, drbabs. It's a positive way to keep her memory alive.

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over 3 years ago creamtea

thanks, sdebrango.

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Oh creamtea, what a wonderful story. Your Grandmother sounds lovely and I know she would be so proud that you are making her recipe. Delicious and such a gift. Thank you for sharing,