Growing up, it sometimes seemed as if my sisters and I were the only kids on the block without a Grandma. Grandmothers were all around us: visiting friends of ours at holiday time, taking kids to movies, baking them cookies. Not us. In my only picture of our grandmother, my mother, as a wide-eyed little girl, sits beside her, hair neatly plaited in two little braids, wearing her best dress and a hand-crocheted collar. Next to her sits my grandmother, her soft brown eyes looking off into the future. My mother was perhaps 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; we knew not to ask too many questions in our family. So last night, when I called my mother for the recipe, I was surprised to learn that they were not Betty Crocker's, not Mrs. G.'s; they were my grandmother's. Not that my mother knew the measurements or amounts. She says she watched her mother make them as a very little girl, time and time again. When she (and Grampa) finally escaped to this country to start a new life, she married and had a family, She reconstructed this recipe from her childhood memories. I'm so happy to have just one "handed down" recipe and to share it here. This is my variation on the original, Cherry crumb cake. —creamtea
one 7 1/2 x 11 pan of bar cookies
small quantity of neutral oil for greasing the pan
2 1/2 cups
plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
(1 1/2 sticks) unsalted (sweet) butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and chilled
large egg, beaten lightly
sliced toasted almonds
In This Recipe
Pre-heat oven to 350º.
Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a Pyrex pan.
Spoon the preserves into a small bowl and stir. Set aside.
Sift the dry ingredients into a medium bowl.
Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until pea-sized lumps are formed. Drizzle in the beaten egg, tossing lightly with a fork to combine
Remove about 1/3 of the flour mixture to another bowl and with your fingers, toss all but about 1 tablespoon of the sliced almonds into this smaller amount. Set aside.
Tip the bowl containing the larger amount of the crumb mixture into the pan. Shake to distribute and pat lightly with you hands into an even layer. Don't press too hard.
Carefully spread the plum preserves over the layer of dough, using a flexible spatula and a light hand. Try to spoon some into the corners. Don't be too worried if it's not perfect. Press-lift-travel-repeat seems to work.
Tip the bowl containing the crumb-and-almond mixture into the pan. Shake to distribute and press lightly to set.
Sprinkle any remaining sliced almonds over the top. Bake about 30-40 minutes or until top is golden. Allow to cool and cut into bars.