M'dears, cookie season is officially upon us! My fridge is stocked with butter, Costco has rolled out the huge packs of parchment paper that they only carry during this time of year, and I've already had to refill my sugar and flour jars twice. Ah, the holidays!
A couple of years ago for the holidays, one of my oldest friends, Priscilla, gifted me with a box of assorted homemade cookies. In them were these amazing, amazing raspberry jam shortbread bars--so good that ever since then, I've been begging Priscilla to make the bars for me again every Christmas. For some reason, however, my begging skills are apparently not up to snuff (NTS: practice Puss'n'Boots face) because I have yet to convince Priscilla to make them for me again! Alas, great sadness. :(
But then, in the midst of a desperate craving for jam shortbread bars, it suddenly dawned on me that, as a baker, I am perfectly capable of taking matters into my own oven-mitted hands. So, enter my spin on this bar-cookie: berry, apple, and rosemary shortbread bars. Before you go and accuse me of once again going off the deep end with potentially insane flavor combinations, allow me to explain where the inspiration for this one comes from. A couple of days ago, a few local San Francisco Bay Area food bloggers and I were brainstorming flavors of blackberry jam that Sean should make (backstory: we were at an event promoting blackberries). Of course, brainstorming flavors is one of my favorite pastimes--I swear a psychologist would have a field day doing food-related free word association analysis on me. Anyways, we all threw out a bunch of suggestions: blackberry-rose! blackberry-ginger! blackberry-vanilla! And somehow, admist all of this, Irvin and I both arrived at a consensus on blackberry-apple-rosemary jam.
Over the next few days, the idea of dark berries paired with apples and rosemary stuck with me. Tart chunks of green apples seemed to be a fitting companion to supple and ultra-sweet berries, and rosemary lends the combination a more sophisticated, rustic air. Together, this trio formed the perfect storm for my long-desired shortbread bars, with homemade blackberry and wild blueberry jam and large pieces of baked apples sandwiched between crumbly layers of almost-savory rosemary shortbread. It's like having jam and apple pie all at once! :) (For a more standard variation, the rosemary can easily be left out of the shortbread, which is flavored with lemon zest as well, so it will still taste plenty yummy.)
As if these bars weren't awesome enough, I realized, after pulling them out of the oven, a fact that makes them even awesome-er. You see, these little squares of delicious are called "Berry, Apple, and Rosemary Shortbread" bars. Now, if you acronym-tize that, you get.... BARS bars. Oh yes, dear friends. Pun-age! (Okay, cue collective groan and facepalm from most of you out there and a mild applause from English major dorks like me who appreciate a good pun when they hear one!)
[click on photo for a larger image]
Anyways, Priscilla--if you're reading this-- I'm still waiting for you to make your awesome raspberry jam version of these bar-cookies again! *hint hint* And for the rest of you: what cookies are you planning to make this season? Share below!
[full disclosure: thank you to Driscoll's for the blackberries used in this recipe, and thank you to my mom for the apples used herein. As always, I wouldn't be telling you about any products that I don't myself use and love.]
Read on for recipe....
Blackberry and Wild Blueberry Jam
makes about one cup of jam
loosely adapted from Blue Chair Fruit
125 gr wild blueberries
195 gr blackberries
17 gr freshly squeezed lemon juice
160 gr sugar
1. Place a few spoons on a plate in the freezer.
2. Mix the berries together in a bowl and add the lemon juice. Let sit for a few minutes to macerate. Divide the berries in half, and set half aside.
3. In a non-reactive saucepan over medium low heat, combine half of the berries with the sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until the juices run. Increase heat to medium high until the berries boil. Boil for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Add the remaining berries. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and stir every thirty seconds or so. Cook for 10-15 minutes more, testing for doneness after 10 minutes.
5. To test for doneness, remove the pan from the stove. Retrieve a spoon from the freezer and scoop a small amount of liquid and berries. Return the spoon to the freezer for a few minutes. Once cooled, hold the spoon vertically. If the jam does not run off the spoon and is a thick, spreadable consistency, the jam is done. If not, return the pan to the stove and continue to cook for a few more minutes before testing again.
6. Cool the jam completely, preferably overnight in an airtight container in the refrigerator, before using in the following recipe.
Berry, Apple, and Rosemary Shortbread Bars
makes one 9 x 13" pan, about 24 squares
adapted from Epicurious, via smitten kitchen
4 cups (560 gr) AP flour
2 tspn baking powder
1/4 tspn salt
1 1/2 tspn freshly grated meyer lemon zest
2 - 4 Tbspn fresh rosemary, finely chopped*
4 sticks (1 lb.) butter
2 cups (400 gr) sugar
4 egg yolks
~330 gr crisp tart apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 tspn lemon juice
2 tspn sugar
1 tspn AP flour
1 cup blackberry + wild blueberry jam
powdered sugar, optional
1. Make the shortbread. Whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, and chopped rosemary. Set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, cream the butter until light. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the egg yolks to the butter and sugar one at a time, beating well after each addition.
4. Gradually beat in the dry ingredients until just combined. Do not overmix.
5. Divide the shortbread dough in half. Wrap each half in parchment paper or plastic wrap and freeze until hard, at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x13" baking pan with foil, leaving overhang at the sides.
7. Prepare the filling. Toss the chopped apples, lemon juice, sugar, and flour together and let sit for a few minutes.
8. Heat the jam briefly until it reaches a somewhat liquid, spreadable consistency.
9. Remove half of the shortbread dough from the freezer. Grate using a coarse grater or the grater plate of a food processor. Spread the grated dough evenly over the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
10. Spoon the jam over the first layer of shortbread dough and distribute the apple chunks in one layer on the jam.
11. Remove the second half of the dough from the freezer and grate. Pour the grated dough evenly over the jam and apple layer.
12. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the edges and top are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.
13. Using the foil, lift the shortbread out of the pan. If using, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into squares.
Note: for a strong rosemary taste, use up to 4 Tbspn of chopped rosemary. For a more subtle rosemary flavor, use just 2 Tbspn.