Blackberry Pie Bars

This is the beginning of a summer full of pie bars.

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I love pie but I’ve never made pie bars before. So when my coworker, Susi, gave me some juicy blackberries from her garden, pie bars were on the top of my mind. To be honest, I wasn’t up to making pie crust on a weekday. Whether you call them pie bars or crumb bars, this dessert starts with a shortbread crust, followed by a layer of fruit filling which is then topped with a reserved amount of the crust to create a crumb topping. I can totally imagine that I will use this base recipe to create all sorts of summer pie bars. Blue ones with blueberries, red ones with strawberries or cherries and orange ones with peaches, nectarines or apricots. Summer fruit is one of my favorite things and I am incredibly glad it is back!

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In other news, things have been quiet around here because May just kind of flew by. On super short notice, I was invited to test for and received my black belt in Hapkido (the Korean martial art I have been training in since October 2011). My experience included moments of triumph, exhaustion and frustration, but I am glad that I did it and it is over with. I still have to do several board breaks, but my bruised elbows are still recovering so I am letting that go for now and am enjoying learning new weapons techniques. When I complete those, I have a special dessert in mind that I will share here. Leading up to the test involved getting in as much extra training as possible. Afterwards, I just felt like recovering from body exhaustion and soreness, and I really just wanted to take it easy and not do anything after work. Baking and blogging were put on the back burner as a result but I was okay with that because sometimes time is needed to have the energy to get back into things.

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So here we are with these bars, and hopefully I’ll have some more summer recipes scattered throughout the next few months. After an exceptionally cool and rainy May, the Sacramento Valley heat is quite something to get used to again. If it means that stone fruit is on its way, then I’ll take it.

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In the meantime, brown your butter, prep your fruit and preheat your oven because these pie bars are worth it.


Blackberry Pie Bars

Adapted from these bars from Tutti Dolci

Yields: 16 bars

Notes

As mentioned above, these can be made with a wide variety of summer fruits or a mix of them including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches, nectarines and apricots. If using larger fruit, cut them into ½-inch pieces for ease of cutting into the bars when cooled.

Ingredients

Crust & Crumbs

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter

  • ¼ cup sugar

  • ¼ cup light brown sugar

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

  • 2 cups flour

  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Filling

  • ½ cup sugar

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 3 cups fresh blackberries, washed and dried

  • ½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice

  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Decoration

  • Powdered sugar (optional)

Steps

Preheat oven to 350°F and line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Spray sides with non-stick cooking spray.

To brown butter, place butter in a heavy-bottomed pot. Melt on medium until it fizzles and spits and the solids start to turn a golden brown. Swirl every once in a while to make sure you haven’t burnt it. Once the butter smells nutty and you see that the bottom is covered with golden bits, remove from the heat. Place in a large heat proof bowl. Add sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest, and stir until combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to butter mixture and fold until incorporated. Reserve ¾ cup of the crust for the topping, keeping it chilled in the meantime. In the lined baking pan, press remaining dough evenly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake crust for 15 minutes, until lightly golden and set. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, make the filling. Combine sugar, salt, lemon zest and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Add berries and toss to combine. Spoon over cooled crust and add reserved crumble over the fruit filling.

Bake for another 40 to 45 minutes, or until topping is golden and filling slightly bubbly.

Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Carefully lift parchment and place bars on a cutting board. Cut into squares with a sharp knife. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.