Saturday, August 11, 2012

Blueberry Crumble Shortbread Bars & a New Cookie-Concept

I have gained a new cookie concept: the 'shortbread bottom-jam layer middle-something good on top' concept.
And I have Melissa Clark to thank for it.  Between this recipe and another one for dark chocolate cherry ganache bars (a nytimes link), the cookie possibilities that have now opened before me seem endless.

You start with the shortbread on bottom: plain or chocolate, nutty or lemony.  Then slather on some delicious jam.  Blueberry, strawberry, cherry, peach, ... lemon curd (why not!).  Finish it off with a fun top.  This one has a crumble top.  But the other one had a ganache top.  Any kind of melted chocolate would do... perhaps sprinkled with salted almonds.  Vary as you see fit. 

This particular combination is fantastic.  I love crumbles because of their texture and how delightful to encounter it again and again in these cookies, without having to turn the oven on each time.  And these bars are not too sweet.  Instead, everything from the hint of lemon in the jam, the hint of cinnamon in the crumble, and the hint of butter from the shortbread makes the blueberry flavor ramify.  

It all makes you feel like you could eat lots of them.  At once.

Start by making the jam.  It is so quick, you won't believe it.  Sprinkle the berries with lemon zest.

Throw in some sugar and a cinnamon stick.

Smash them slightly in the pan and bring them to a simmer.

Simmer 20 minutes, and that's that.

Next for the shortbread.  Throw the ingredients in the food processor and pulse until it just forms a ball.

Press it into a pan.  Put it in the oven.

Remove from oven when slightly golden.  Let it cool.

For the crumble, combine you oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt. and walnuts.  Add in the butter in with your fingertips. 

the blueberry jam
over the shortbread layer.

Sprinkle the crumble on top.

Pop it in the oven.  It instantly starts smelling divine.

Remove.  Cool, for as long as you can resist.

Then... enjoy.  Lots of times.

And once you vary this concept... enjoy in lots of ways!

Blueberry Crumble Shortbread Bars (from Melissa Clark)
For the jam:
1 pint blueberries
2 Tbs sugar
zest from one large lemon
small cinnamon stick
Juice from half a lemon, more to taste

For the shortbread crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
12 Tbs unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cubed

For the crumble:
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
4 Tbs butter, at room temperature

To make the jam, in a small saucepan, add blueberries, sugar, and lemon zest.  Mash berries slightly with the back of a large spoon, just to release some of their juices.  Add cinnamon stick and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes.  Remove cinnamon stick and allow jam to cool.  Taste and add lemon juice.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Great a 9-inch square baking pan.*  In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt.  Add the butter and pulse until mixture just comes together in one ball.  Press into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Bake until crust is pale and golden, 25-30 minutes.  Cool.  Spread blueberry jam evenly over shortbread.

To make crumble, in a small bowl, whisk together oats, sugar, walnuts, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Blend in the butter with your finger tips, forming pea-sized crumbs.  Sprinkle the crumble over the blueberry jam.  Bake until topping is golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes.  Cool and cut into bars.

*I didn't have one so I used an 8-inch glass pan and kept all the times the same.  It worked just fine.