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When I close my eyes and think about cherries, I see purple.
Fingertips robed in violet stains from digging out and discarding pits. Crumpled brown paper bags spilling their stone-fruit spoils into laps and grass. The warmth of fruit that escaped its predetermined over-refrigerated fate, only to land in the slightly dusty boxes of the greengrocer’s awning-wrapped street displays.
I’m sure the greengrocer that palmed me twenty quid when he heard I’d gotten into university is long gone from that storefront, but I can close my eyes and taste the black cherries he used to have in the summer, decades later.
As an adult on the other side of an ocean, I’ve never come across those wine-dark cherry varieties again. Maybe those varieties don’t grow or sell well here. (I have a feeling the places that grow these would probably hoard them for themselves!) It feels a little like black cherry has become just a manufactured flavor that’s somehow gotten divorced from the real fruit. It’s taken the kids and a flight to Europe and neglected to pay the lawyer before exiting Fruit Stage Right. Or something.
Whatever it is, wherever the Prince of stone fruits has gone, I’ve had to learn to love his cherry cousin Bing, instead. It’s kind of a fruit-y friends with benefits situation. We’re not exactly in love with each other, but we’ve learned to make this arrangement work. All for the sake of making desserts, you understand.
Like these cherry shortbread crumble bars.
As a kid, shortbread was one of the very first things I remember teaching myself to make, from an oversized book with near life size photos of the pre measured ingredients. It always seemed like alchemy to blend just three simple ingredients in the right proportions to get luscious, buttery-flaky shortbread. A kind of cheating, somehow, to turn a crumbly blend of fat, sugar and flour into something both decadent and simple.
So that uncomplicated shortbread was the inspiration for the all purpose dough that I make here to serve as both buttery base and slightly sweetened crumbly topping for these cherry shortbread crumble bars. It’s actually a very slightly different tweak to the pastry recipe I use to make my Cherry Galette, because I wanted to make a simpler dessert that didn’t require as much technique as rolling out some #allthefrees style pastry.
While the cherries – dark or otherwise – are the attention seekers in this one, I included the strawberries here because when they’re heated, they break down much more readily than cherries, which are firmer and have a lower water content. When the strawberries liquefy as they simmer on the stovetop with honey and lemon juice, they are thickened up with a little arrowroot starch once the fruit mixture has reduced.
It’s that strawberry reduction that wraps around the larger pieces of cherry and give you the same mouthfeel in these cherry shortbread crumble bars as a much longer baked pie filling.
Make sure to whip some of these up before cherry season comes to its tragic end!Print
Berry Cherry Shortbread Crumble Bars
These cherry shortbread crumble bars have a luscious, buttery crust, with a rich fruity cherry filling that’s all topped off with a crumbly, streusel-y topping.
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 16 squares
- Method: oven, stovetop
For the crust:
- 1 1/2 cups / 247 g cassava flour (see notes – I used this one)
- 3/4 cup / 83 g tigernut flour (I used this one)
- 3 tbsp / 24 g arrowroot powder
- 3 tbsp / 45 ml raw honey
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 3/4 cup + 3 tbsp / 225 g chilled palm shortening (see notes – I used this one)
- 3 tbsp / 45 ml ice cold water
- Coconut sugar, optional, to taste
For the filling:
PREP: Preheat the oven to 350 F / 175 C. Line a 9 x 9 inch / 23 cm x 23 cm baking dish with parchment paper.
PULSE: Add the cassava flour to the bowl of a food processor. Sift the tigernut flour through a fine mesh sieve into the food processor bowl and discard any large pieces left behind at the end. Add the arrowroot, honey & salt. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the chilled palm shortening to the food processor bowl. Pulse a few times in short bursts until the mixture begins to resemble crumbs. Don’t over process: you want to have visible pieces of fat flecked throughout and too much pulsing will overheat and melt the shortening. Add the ice water and pulse a couple of times to distribute it evenly. The finished dough should look very crumbly, but hold together when pinched between your fingers.
PRESS: Divide the dough mixture into two portions, setting aside 2/3rds of it for the base of the crumble bars and reserving the remaining 1/3rd to make the crumble topping. Pour the base mixture into the lined baking dish and use your hands to press it evenly into a single layered crust.
SET: Place the baking dish into the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes, until the crust has just set, but not taken on any color. Remove from the oven and set on a trivet to cool slightly while you make the filling.
THICKEN: Add the cherries, strawberries, honey & lemon juice to a saucepan over medium heat. Bring the fruit mixture to a gentle simmer and cook until the fruit just begins to soften and the liquids reduce by about half, about 15 minutes. Make the arrowroot powder into a slurry with a little water, then add that to the fruit filling, stirring through to mix it through evenly. Cook for another few minutes, until the fruit mixture thickens and is no longer liquid-y, then remove from the heat.
LAYER: Spoon the fruit filling onto the top of the par baked crust and spread in an even layer. Take the reserved dough mixture from earlier and use your hands to gently squeeze it into small, streusel-like clumps. Sprinkle the fruit mixture with the crumb topping evenly. If you like, sprinkle the top with coconut sugar for a little extra crunchy contrast.
BAKE: Return the baking dish to the oven and cook until the fruit mixture bubbles and the crumble topping is barely just beginning to take on a little golden hue, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a trivet to cool completely.
COOL: The bars are easiest to cut once they have cooled and been refrigerated for long enough that the crust firms up nicely. Cut into 16 squares. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days or so.
I haven’t tested these variations, but chilled leaf lard or even coconut oil would likely prove to be acceptable substitutions for the palm shortening.
The metric weight measurements are the most accurate, particularly since cassava flour can vary in weight to volume ratios across brands. I always recommend using a kitchen scale to weigh your ingredients when baking if possible.
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