Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"Be it Ever so Crumbly . . . " Raspberry Almond Crumble Bars

Every once in a while, a casual comment, or perhaps some little household incident, prompts my charming husband to sing Bugs Bunny's version of that noble ode to domestic bliss, "Be it Ever So Humble, There's No Place Like Home." Are you familiar with it? Bugs's rendition went kind of like this:

Be it ever so crumbly, there's no place like Rome.
Nero, he was the emperor, the palace was his home.
But he liked to play with matches, and for a fire yearned.
So he turned Rome to ashes and fiddled while it burned.

Catchy, isn't it?

Well, these raspberry-almond crumble bars prompted just such an occasion for said husband o' mine. Ah, yes, these are crumbly indeed. In fact, the topping is so crumbly, you might as well just haul out the vacuum cleaner right now and leave it in a convenient spot until they're all gone. That's assuming, of course, that you aren't plagued with a debilitating crumb phobia. (In which case, I'll have to excuse you from making these. Just bring in a signed note.)

These bars are chewy, crunchy, and--from the filling up--are on the softer side. To keep them completely in tact you might want to consider refrigerating them. But if you don't mind the hyper-crumble effect, leave them out. Like just about all bar cookies, they freeze well.

About this recipe . . .
I adapted this recipe from one called Back-to-School Raspberry Granola Bars that I found in Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox's 2009 book, The Craft of Baking. I love the looks of almost every single recipe in this volume. I believe I've raved about it before, so I'll try to refrain from gushing.

I made a couple of changes to the recipe that, I strongly suspect, upped the crumbly factor exponentially. Among them, I substituted  almond meal for part of the white flour. And, I used toasted, unblanched almonds, chopped small, instead of the indicated coarsely chopped pecans. Also, I substituted light brown, versus dark brown, sugar, and I increased the recipe so it could be made in a 9" by 13" pan. And, of course, I reworded the instructions.

I assume you can use any jam flavor that appeals to you. I used primarily raspberry, but must admit that I ran a little short of the required amount and ended up slipping in some apricot jam as well. Apricot jam, as we know, has an odd kind of a neutral aspect about it. Bakers and pastry chefs seem to use it in one form or another as a basis for everything from glazes to moistening syrups to fillings. I guess that's because it's cooperative and adaptable, from a flavor standpoint. It has a passive "do with me what you will" quality about it (good characteristic in a jam; bad characteristic in a female).


Raspberry Almond Crumble Bars

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9" x 13" pan; line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment and lightly butter the parchment.

1 and 1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 and 1/4 cup almonds, unblanched
2 cups unbleached All-Purpose flour
1 cup almond meal (Essentially, whole almonds that have been finely ground, but not so fine they become like a paste; I used Trader Joe's brand.)
2 and 1/4 cups rolled oats (I used quick oats; either quick or old fashioned should work fine.)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tsp. kosher salt (I realize that sounds like a lot; decrease it if you like, but I wouldn't eliminate it altogether.)
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups raspberry jam

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Set aside to cool.

Toast the almonds in the oven, spread on a baking sheet in a single layer, for about 8 minutes. Set them aside to cool, them chop them in small, coarse pieces. 

In a large mixing bowl, by hand, mix together the flour, almond meal, oats, the sugars, baking soda, salt, and chopped almonds. Pour in the melted butter, and mix together well with a fork. Feel free to mix with your hands if you want to, to break up big chunks.

Put about 2/3 of the mixture into the prepared baking pan and press it down firmly to create an even well-packed layer. Pour the jam evenly over this, and spread it with a spatula or the back of a large spoon.
Sprinkle the remaining crumbly mixture evenly over the entire top of the jam.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Let the bars cool completely, in the pan on a wire rack, before attempting to cut and remove them.

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