Sossie Beile's Little Cherry Crumb Bars

October 27, 2011


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

Ingredients

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
In This Recipe

Directions

  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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Reviews (25) Questions (0)

25 Reviews

EMR February 2, 2017
I came across the story of your Sossie's cherry crumb cookies on a day when we had heard from some Syrian friends. One fears that she will never see her Mother again with the current travel ban in place. I baked these cookies in memory of Sossie and all of the Grandmothers, Mothers and Grandchildren who suffer when politics goes awry. By the way, they were delicious. Our family will make them again and again and remember Sossie and others like her each time. Thank you for sharing the story of these cookies.
 
Author Comment
creamtea September 14, 2017
EMR thank you for your touching note. So glad you tried them.
 
Bridget January 30, 2017
I wonder- was your Grandma Polish? I grew up eating something very similar to these at a neighbours house. He had been a Polish POW here in England during the war and married a local girl after hostilities ended. He planted the most amazing orchard: walnuts, figs and tons and tons of cherries- which we spent our holidays picking in exchange for crumble bars and honey. Zigmund has been gone many years but his cherry trees/their ancestors thrive as does, more or less, his 87 year old wife who still lives down the road. Come cherry time I shall treat her to these (and perhaps some vodka!).
 
Author Comment
creamtea January 30, 2017
Yes, from area currently known as Polish (Tarnopil province). Very interesting that you grew up eating a similar cookie Bridget!
 
cucina D. October 30, 2015
these sound amazing, right up my alley... can't wait to try them this holiday season.
 
sexyLAMBCHOPx October 26, 2015
What a very bittersweet headnote and delicious looking bar.
 
Author Comment
creamtea October 26, 2015
Thank you for posting such a kind response, LAMBCHOPx.
 
Stef_art June 17, 2015
I have just made and tested this recipe. Very good. instead of the jam I Used fresh plums, sliced and tossed with a little sugar (I used about 700 g plums/1 tbsp sugar/1 tsp vanilla). This made for a beautiful, crumbly, not at all sweet come cake come bars. Thanks (the idea of using fresh fruit comes from a similar dessert from British food writer delia smith/she calls it oat plum slice and u can find her recipe on her website www.deliaonline.com)<br />I will try with raspberries when they are in season (here in the uk)<br />Thanks for the lovely, easy peasy idea. Stefani
 
Amandadp January 25, 2015
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!
 
Author Comment
creamtea January 26, 2015
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.
 
Mia January 23, 2015
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!
 
Author Comment
creamtea January 26, 2015
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.
 
alliejones January 16, 2015
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!
 
Author Comment
creamtea January 16, 2015
What a great response! I'm so delighted your husband liked them!!
 
Dina M. January 9, 2015
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!
 
Author Comment
creamtea January 13, 2015
Thanks, Dina. I grew up loving these bars, but having the recipe a CP is very special to me.
 
TheWimpyVegetarian January 8, 2015
These look wonderful!!! Congrats on the Community Pick!
 
Author Comment
creamtea January 8, 2015
Thanks so much!
 
Fry C. August 6, 2013
Thank you for this cream tea I am making this today for my loved ones. Grandmothers live on thru grandaughters<br />in delicious ways. Shalom.
 
Author Comment
creamtea September 18, 2013
Thank you, Fry cook.
 
PRST July 18, 2013
It is stories like this that make food and cooking so very special. Thank you for sharing. What a beautiful photograph!
 
Author Comment
creamtea July 19, 2013
Thank you for your comment, PRST. Sometimes it's not only about the flavor, though that's important, but handing something down.
 
drbabs July 16, 2013
What a sad story, creamtea. It's wonderful that this recipe can continue to be passed on.
 
Author Comment
creamtea July 19, 2013
Thank you, drbabs. It's a positive way to keep her memory alive.
 
Author Comment
creamtea October 27, 2011
thanks, sdebrango.