Cherry almond shortbread pie bars
These small batch pie bars are a great way to get the pie experience with a less fussy crust. Adapted from a banger Ina Garten recipe where the crust makes both the base and the crumble-like topping. You’ll eat the whole pan in 3 days. Or maybe that was just me.
You'll be eating in: 2 hours, including time to chill the dough.
Active time: 25 minutes
Yield: 1 8x8 inch pan of bars
For the crust:
cup (2 sticks / 230 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
cup (66 grams) white sugar
cup (50 grams) brown sugar
teaspoon vanilla extract
teaspoon almond extract (optional)
cups (284 grams) all purpose flour
teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
For the cherry filling:
pound cherries (fresh or frozen)
sugar to taste, start with 2 tablespoons (see notes)
tablespoon corn starch
teaspoon fresh lemon juice
teaspoon almond extract
For the topping:
cup chopped, slivered, or sliced almonds
Preheat the oven to 375°
Make the shortbread
Cream together the softened butter and sugars with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer. Mix until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in extracts and mix to combine. Add in flour and salt and mix on low speed to prevent flying flour. You can sift the flour but I don't bother for denser desserts like this. Increase speed to medium and mix until flour is fully incorporated.
Bake the base
Set aside 1/3 of the crust dough in the refigerator. Pack the other 2/3 of the dough into an 8x8inch square pan and press into the bottom and slightly up the sides to create a bit of a rim like you would in a pie pan (this prevents the pie filling from sticking/burning at the edges). Refrigerate for 20 minutes or up to one day. Bake at 375° for 18-20 minutes until the base is golden brown.
Make the filling
Combine pitted cherries, sugar, corn starch, lemon juice, and salt in a medium sauce pan. Cook together over medium heat (it needs to bubble to activate the starch) until cherries are softened and jammy. Adjust sugar to taste. Add in almond extract (start with 1/4 teaspoon) to taste. Let cool before assembling.
Bake with filling
Reduce the oven temperature to 350°. Spread the filling over the base. Mix the almonds with the remaining crust and drop pieces of the crust across the top of the filling (it won't completely cover the filling). Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes until the top crust is browned. Cool in the pan, slice, and enjoy!
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The amount of sugar depends on your cherries: tart cherries will need more and sweet cherries will need less. Pie filling is very forgiving so you don't need to be exact. Use canned pie filling for an even easier dessert.
I don't bother toasting the nuts since they get roasted in the oven.
Any fruit-pie filling would work great here. Ina's original recipe used apples. I can't wait to try it with peaches, apricots or plums.
Pecans, walnuts, or pistachios would all be great in place of almonds.