Photo by Judith Hausman
I’m in a book club, and it was my turn to host my funny, smart friends. They usually arrive at my house medium-hungry, so while no one makes an elaborate spread, it’s our habit to serve some sweet and some savory victuals.
I set out dip and cheese, olives and oranges and offered these delicate jam bars for the sweets. This time of year, I often bake a rougher, chunkier version with oatmeal and nuts to use up my store of summer-made jams and spreads. But this time I had a Mason jar of barely sweetened pear butter to inspire me so I took a daintier approach to this simple, classic bar cookie.
The light touch of citrus in the base balances the sweet jam nicely. Don’t worry that this bottom layer (which is also the crumble on top) seems dry at first; the damp jam bakes into the crust and holds it together further in the baking. Any jam, jelly or spread will work. Loosen it for spreading by stirring it a little or by adding a teaspoon of water or juice, if necessary. A handful of any chopped nuts can stand in for the pine nuts I used.
Cut tiny squares if the bars will follow a big dinner or be part of a holiday dessert buffet. Serve larger squares with forks as a full dessert or a teatime treat. Vanilla ice cream, crème fraîche or vanilla yogurt garnish the bars nicely.
Recipe: Delicate Jam Bars
- 1 3/4 cup flour
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon or orange zest, grated
- 3/4 cup jam
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cream together butter, sugar and citrus zest. Blend in flour until crumbly. Set aside about one-third of this mix and press the rest into an ungreased 8- or 9-inch baking pan. Spread the jam over this base. Add the pine nuts to the reserved flour mix and sprinkle it evenly over the jam. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until golden. Cool completely and then cut into bars of preferred size. (see above)