Simple Cherry and Crumb Covered Shortbread Bars
These buttery, cherry and crumb covered shortbread bars are little slices of heaven, that's what they are. The shortbread base is everything shortbread should be - tender, rich, not too sweet, and melt-in-your-mouth buttery. The shortbread is spread with cherry preserves spiked with a touch of orange zest and orange liquor, then covered with crispy, crunchy, sweet butter crumbs.
Every bite is buttery, fruity, and crispy. A little like cherry crumb pie in cookie form. And making them couldn't be simpler.
If Cherry Crumb Pie was a Bar Cookie...
One of my all-time favorite things to make during cherry season is Cherry Crumb Pie. The pie uses sweet cherries and is covered in a crunchy buttery crumb topping that I could eat by the handful. These bars remind me of that pie, except there's no need to wait for cherry season to make them. All you need is a jar of cherry preserves.
The cookies begin with a tender, buttery shortbread "crust" that could never be mistaken for pie crust... but isn't all that far off in flavor and texture from the soft pastry on the bottom of a juicy fruit pie. The filling is simply cherry jam spiked with a bit of orange zest and cointreau - both of which are optional. (More about that later.)
And the butter crumb topping is the exact same topping I use on Cherry Crumb Pie because there's no need to reinvent the wheel when you've already got something so delicious.
The reason I adore this crumb like I do is because it's both crispy AND tender. The crumbs are baked for 15 minutes by themselves before piling them onto the cookies. This ensures that they'll retain their crispy nature while the cookies bake and not just melt into the jam. I feel this is super important because it means each bite offers a delicious combination of flavors and textures.
The short pre-baking also means you can prepare the crumbs in advance if that suits your fancy. After baking them for 15 minutes, dump them into a zip top bag or other air tight container and they'll keep in the refrigerator for at least a week.
Super simple cherry filling, with or without a twist.
The filling for these cherry crumb bars is nothing more than cherry preserves, orange zest and a touch of cointreau. And the only actual required ingredient is the cherry preserves. The orange zest and orange liquor are tasty, but optional. I love how a touch of orange both compliments the cherry flavor and adds some interesting complexity. But, if you'd rather have a more pure cherry flavor, simply leave it out.
You can also use a different kind of orange liquor in place of the cointreau if you like. Or, leave it out entirely. Or replace it with a bit more zest and orange extract if you'd rather.
Since there's nothing in there to cover up the flavor, it's pretty important to not skimp on the cherry preserves (or jam). If you're one of those wonderful people who made some homemade cherry jam last year then you're ahead of us all. And, don't be surprised if I show up to your house and beg for a jar. (I do live in a house on wheels, after all.) If you, like me, are not blessed with a jar of homemade preserves in your pantry, just make sure to purchase a jar of something high quality.
For the bars you see pictured here, I used Bonne Maman Cherry Preserves and can vouch for the quality and flavor. It doesn't really matter what kind of cherries the preserves are made from. The main thing you're looking for can be found in the ingredient list. There should be little to nothing else in there besides fruit, sugar, lemon juice, and pectin.
How to prepare the pan
These cookies are baked as a cake and then cut into individual bars once cool. As such, it's important to have a game plan for how to get the whole thing out of the pan so you can cut it with ease. Flipping it upside down will mean loosing some of those precious crumbs. And you do NOT want to loose any of those. Cutting the cake into bars inside the pan is an option... but it's difficult to get the first couple of bars out without breaking them.
The easiest way to get the whole cake out of the pan is to simply line your baking dish with parchment paper that comes up and over the sides of the pan. This allows you to just lift the whole cake out of the pan at once, so you can set it on a cutting board and cut it into bars.
Start by spraying your baking dish with a bit of non-stick spray. Alternatively, you can smear around a bit of vegetable shortening or butter. The grease acts as a kind of glue so that it forms to the inside of the pan and sticks in place.
Then simply cut two pieces of parchment paper so that two of the sides fit inside the pan and the long sides stretch up and over the sides of the pan. Press one into the pan, spray it with a bit more non-stick spray, then press the other into the pan, laying it perpendicular to the first. Spray the second piece with a bit more non-stick spray to help ensure that the cookies themselves will not stick.
More recipes for cherry lovers:
- Sweet Cherry Crumb Pie
- Triple Cherry Pie
- Cherry Almond Muffins with Streusel
- Cherry Turnovers with Cream Cheese and Almonds
- Black Forest Cake
- Gluten Free Chocolate Almond Cherry Oatmeal Cookies
- Chocolate, Fruit, and Nut Shortbread Cookies
- How about a cherry cocktail to go with your cherry crumble bars? Cherry Citrus Prosecco Spritzer
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, or take a picture and tag it #ofbatteranddough on Instagram.
For the Shortbread Base:
- 1 ½ cups salted butter, at room temperature
- ¼ cup + 2 tbs granulated sugar
- 1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
For the Crumble Topping:
- 3 tbsp salted butter, at room temperature
- ¾ cup cake flour
- ¼ cup brown sugar (light or dark)
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp salt
For the cherry filling:
- 1 cup cherry jam or preserves
- 2 tsp finely grated orange zest
- 1 tbsp cointreau or another orange liquor (*Optional - see note.)
Bake the shortbread base:
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray an 8 or 9-inch square baking dish with non-stick spray. Cut a strip of parchment paper so that it will fit inside the pan on two sides and come up and over the sides of the pan on the other two sides. Spray the parchment paper lightly wtih non-stick spray. Cut a second piece of parchment paper the same size as the first and fit it perpendicular to the first so that you have parchment paper coming up and over the sides of the pan on all four sides. (*See image above.)
- Beat the softened butter and sugar with an electric mixer until lightened in color and fluffy in texture, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.
- Add the flour and salt and beat on low just until the flour is incorporated.
- Press the shortbread into the baking dish, pressing it into the corners and across the base of the pan in an even layer. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool slightly while you prepare the crumb topping.
Prepare the Crumb Topping:
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
- Add all the crumb topping ingredients to a bowl and mix until all the dry ingredients are moistened with the butter. I like to do this with my fingers, gently rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients until fully incorporated.
- Use your hands to transfer the crumb topping to the baking sheet, squeezing it together as you do to create some clumps.
- Bake the crumbs in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes, reversing the pan in the oven halfway through baking.
Prepare the cherry filling, and assemble and bake the bars:
- In a small bowl, mix the cherry preserves, orange zest and cointreau. Spread the filling over the shortbread, smoothing it out into an even layer. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the top of the jam.
- Bake the bars in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes, until the jam is bubbling all around the edges of the pan.
- Remove the pan from the oven and let cool completely. Use the parchment to lift the cake out of the pan and cut it into 12 bars.
Store the bars in an airtight contaner at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Just 1 tablespoon of cointreau, or other orange liquor, adds a surprising amount of complexity to these cherry crumble bars and intensifies the interplay between the orange and cherry flavors. Having said that, these are perfectly delicious without it. If you don't want to use orange liquor but want to play up the orange flavor, you could also increase the amount of orange zest and/ or add a bit of orange extract.
If you want the flavor of these cherry crumble bars to be purely cherry, feel free to leave out the orange zest and cointreau entirely.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1 bar
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 423Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 69mgSodium: 361mgCarbohydrates: 45gFiber: 1gSugar: 21gProtein: 3g