See that picture above? That’s my jam stash. The various jams, jelly, preserves, sauces, and fruit butter I made over the summer. More than 15 jars. It’s crazy. I hardly ever buy jam. But something about the kind I MADE myself — I got a little obsessed. **shrugs** I have been stirring my stuff into cottage cheese and yogurt. The occasional peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Even more rarely scones and biscuits. I’m thinking there will be more biscuits now that the weather’s turned cool. I stumbled on a website that uses jams in cocktails — so I might play around with that a bit too.
I got a bit of a sweet tooth the other night, and got to thinking about making something with one of these jars of loveliness. I considered thumbprint cookies or linzer cookies — but those were hours away, between softening butter, refrigerating dough, and the sheer labor involved in rolling dozens of balls or rolling out and cutting dough. I thought about layered bars. I haven’t made too many of them in the past — the whole crust production followed by filling(s) followed by toppings — just seemed like a lot of work and dirty dishes. And some of those crusts are just dry and tasteless. And the fillings overly sweet. And the toppings overly complicated. I knew I could do better.
So here was my goal — come up with a single concoction that would serve as BOTH crust and topping. I wanted something that was a cross between shortbread and cookie. As for the filling — oh my word — my own blackberry preserves! Not nearly as sweet as a commercial jam, and a bit looser — so it could firm up as it cooked. Because my blackberry jam was made with cinnamon and star anise, I thought a little anise seed in the dough might be nice. The food processor made short work of this dough — it all came together lickety-split. And the CGP thoroughly approved.
Blackberry Jam Layer Bars
Makes 16 tiny squares
1/3 cup white sugar
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons anise seed (optional)
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg, separated
1/2 pint loose jam or preserves
Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare an 8″ by 8″ baking pan with overlapping foil pieces to make a sling — spray well with baking spray.
Put the sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and anise seed into a food processor and pulse a few times until combined. Drop in the cubed butter and egg yolk. Pulse a few times until it looks like fine damp sand. Add the egg white. Pulse a few times until it looks like coarse wet sand.
Loosely scoop out about one cup of these crumbs and set aside. Press the remainder into the bottom of your prepared pan, pressing into the corners and making it as smooth as possible. Bake this about 10 to 12 minutes just until set.
Spread the jam or preserves over the bottom crust (try to remember that the pan is hot and not burn yourself). Loosely sow the remaining cup of crumbs across the top.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the preserves are all bubbly at the edges and the top is light golden brown. Here’s the tough part — you gotta let them cool to room temp before you can lift them out and cut them into little squares!