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Jar: Half-Empty or Half Full?

My refrigerator always seems to have an assortment of jars of jam that were opened, started with enthusiasm, but then forgotten. I like jam on pancakes and scones, but those are special morning breakfasts. My usual breakfast is toast with sliced cheese, no jam. Consequently, these jars tend to languish at the back of shelf.

Jam, once opened, lasts a really long time, but, eventually, something needs to be done with it. If pancakes and scones aren’t on the immediate horizon, what can be done?

The solution presented itself. I volunteered to bring refreshments to my monthly garden club meeting. The Lexington Field & Garden Club, founded in 1876, is the oldest federated garden club in the country. They offer monthly programs about various aspects of horticulture, flower arranging (not my thing), and garden history. This month’s program, the one annual evening meeting, was about pruning trees. I learned quite a bit about the proper way to prune young and mature trees, and how not to. Mostly, I was convinced that pruning trees is best left to professionals.

So, as I said, I volunteered to bring a few dozen cookies, and had half-empty, or is it half-full, jam jars on my mind. I am partial to bar cookies because they don’t involve a lot of fussing. You fill up the pan with sugary goodness, and, once baked, assuming the cookie slab slides out of the pan, all you have to do is cut it into bars. Jam Bars seemed to be the perfect thing.

You mix up a simple dough, and divide it, about one third, two thirds. The larger portion is pressed into the bottom of the pan. Then you spread the dough with jam. I used two different flavors, apricot-ginger on one side and rhubarb-raspberry on the other side. Finally, you mix some oatmeal into the remaining dough and crumble it over the top. Into the oven it goes, and out come the jewel-toned bars!

The plate was empty before the meeting started, and there are two less jars in my fridge! I’d consider this a success.

Jam Bars

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup powdered sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
1½ cups flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon (or another spice to match your jam flavor)
¼ tsp salt
¾ to 1 cup jam or preserves, any flavor (or use multiple flavors)
¾ cup old-fashioned rolled oats

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In the food processor, cream the butter with both sugars until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg, and process until smooth. Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt, and process again until smooth.

Divide the dough, taking about ¾ cup (about one third of the dough) and setting it aside. Press the remaining dough into an 11×7-inch baking pan. Spread jam over the dough. Now, mix the oats into the reserved dough. With your fingers, crumble it over the top of the jam-spread dough. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the crumble is lightly browned. Let it cool. Turn slab out of the pan onto a cutting board and cut into squares. I cut mine into just less than 2-inch squares, yielding 2 dozen bars.

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tuesdays with dorie / baking with julia: hungarian shortbread

Have I mentioned how much I love my cake dome? Along with that comes the enjoyment of making anything that I can store, prettily, on my counter, in the cake dome. This week’s selection for Tuesdays with Dorie / Baking with Julia, the new bi-weekly baking group I’m taking part in, fit that bill. Enter, the lovely Hungarian Shortbread.

I’m a huge fan of the more traditional Scottish shortbread, simple yet rich, tasting purely of its short list of ingredients. I wasn’t sure how this recipe would stack up.

Hungarian shortbread was a completely different animal than what I’ve had before. In addition to the usual butter, flour, and sugar, the recipe called for egg yolks and baking powder. This changed the texture completely. It was more like a dense cake than a cookie.

The technique was unusual as well. The dough was frozen briefly to firm it up. Then you grate it into the pan. This makes for a fluffier crumb.

Two layers of dough sandwich a tart jam in the middle. The recipe in the book included instructions for a homemade rhubarb spread, but I found a jar of rhubarb-raspberry fruit spread in the pantry, from Austria, no less. That seemed perfect to fill my Hungarian shortbread.

I’ll mention that I had a mental block to making a single pan of something that used a full pound of butter. I compromised by making a half recipe in an 8-inch square pan. No less rich, but less of it to eat. Surprisingly, I still needed to bake the smaller pan for the full 40 minutes to bring to golden brown.

I loved the look of the oodles of powdered sugar on top. Some melted, which gave it the look of a crumb cake, and I added an extra dose for fun when the cake cooled.

The suggested size for the finished cookies was 3 inch squares, which, besides not working out evenly for an 8-inch pan, seemed huge to me. I started with 2-inch squares, which I served when my friend April came over for tea. I ended up cutting the rest diagonally into triangles, which seemed like the perfect-size to me.

While these won’t take the place of Scottish shortbread in my heart, but I did like this fancy treat. I’ll definitely make it again. As an added bonus, it’s the right sort of recipe for using up the assorted jars of jam and jelly on my pantry shelves.

If you’d like the recipe, please visit this week’s hosts: the multi-talented and very funny Cher (a fellow Dorista from the Friday group) at The not so excited adventures of a dabbler… and Lynette at 1smallkitchen.