The bar cookie is a thing of beauty. It brings with it the promise of plenty, the memory of picnics and luncheons and family gatherings where people talked long and laughingly and dessert was a reward worth saving room for. With all the press about farm-to-table and eating in season, it’s nice to remember that the humble bar cookie was a showcase for that long before it was en vogue, featuring whatever came from the garden or farmstand–fresh first, and then “put by.”
Every two weeks, I get to test all sorts of bar cookie recipes, serving them to my guests at the Pig & Weasel, our living-room house-concert series and arts incubator. Last night, this recipe was the winner. The buttery crust works well pressed in to tart pans for a fancy scalloped edge, or, just pressed into typical 9 x 13 casserole dishes, or–doubled for a crowd–into half-sheet pans. For the filling, I have used jams I made myself from fresh apricots, figs and berries, but in a pinch you can use store-bought fruit spreads. (I like Trader Joe’s organic fruit spreads made with fruit & grape-juice concentrate.)
I found this fantastic crust recipe in a 50th anniversary community cookbook put out by the Womens Advisory Committee of the Sears Roebuck YMCA of Chicago in 1952. I like it with my homemade fig filling, or this apricot filling. And for more bar cookie bliss? Try one of my other favorites, such as these coffee-and-molasses dream bars
Jam Bar Cookies
Best Bar-Cookie Crust Ingredients
– 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
– 1 cup brown sugar, packed
– 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
– 1/2 tsp baking soda
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant/quick cooking)
Apricot filling Ingredients
– 6 ounces dried apricots
– 6 Tbsp strawberry fruit spread or preserves
– 1/2 cup golden raisins
– 1/2 cup water
1. Make crust: In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, whip butter with sugar until fluffy. Sift together remaining ingredients and add to butter. Press 2/3 of the mixture into a pan or tart pan you have sprayed with non-stick coating. Press into bottom and–if using tart pan, up the sides. If using standard 13 x 9 inch pan, press about 1/2 inch up the sides of the pan. Reserve remaining crust to use as the topping.
2. Make filling: Heat apricots and raisins in water over low heat until the fruits have “plumped” and absorbed most of the water. Blend in a food processor to a paste; add preserves and pulse again until smooth. Set aside to cool.
3. Preheat oven to 400. Spread filling over the crust. Crumble the remaining crust into crumbs and sprinkle over the filling. Bake at 400 for 25 to 30 minutes. Cut bars while warm and cool before removing from pan.
MONICA KASS ROGERS
Monica is a food-business and lifestyles feature writer & photographer with a penchant for reviving vintage recipes. Building on the “Lost Recipes Found” column she originally launched for the Chicago Tribune, Monica now rediscovers vintage in her blog of the same name Lost Recipes Found and continues to write about and photograph contemporary food nationally for restaurants, hotels and magazines.