I hope that everyone had a fabulous 4th of July! We didn’t do anything too crazy, mostly because the idea of leaving the comfort of an air-conditioned house was not at all appealing. Watching the fireworks on TV and having an indoor barbecue with my family was good enough for me!
Whether you are spending your summer holidays indoors or outdoors, it just wouldn’t be a party without a good dessert. Flag cakes seem to be the most popular for summer’s patriotic holidays. But, if you are looking for something a little different, I would suggest these dessert bars, loaded with a tart cherry filling and a buttery almond and oatmeal topping. There was that whole legend about George Washington and the cherry tree, right? So, these are still a pretty patriotic option.
You could easily substitute other dried fruits or preserves that you might have on hand for the cherries in this recipe. Strawberries or blueberries could be another good option for summer and maybe apples or cranberry in the fall, for example.
Cherry Streusel Bars
Adapted slightly from: America’s Test Kitchen and Bon Appetit Desserts: The Cookbook for All Things Sweet and Wonderful
Yield: About 2 dozen (depending on how large you cut the bars)
What You Will Need
Note: The original recipe called for 1 tablespoon of kirsch (clear cherry brandy) in the filling and 1 cup of sweetened flaked coconut in the streusel. I left these out because I didn’t have them on hand, and don’t think it affected the flavor or texture at all.
- 1 cup dried sweet cherries
- 1 cup tart red cherry preserves (I recommend Smucker’s Orchard’s Finest)
Note: Filling can be made one day ahead and refrigerated until you are ready to bake.
Dough and Streusel
Note: The suggestion of using the dough/topping from the America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) raspberry bar recipe came from Gastronomy Blog. It’s true–the ATK recipe has just the right texture and sweetness and it always bakes up perfectly. But, adding the extracts and cinnamon called for in the Bon Appetit recipe gave something extra special to the bars, as those ingredients are the perfect complements for cherries!
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into tablespoon sized pieces (16 tablespoons are needed for the dough, 2 tablespoons for the streusel)
- 1 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
- 3/4 cup sliced almonds
What to do
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with an aluminum foil sling. Spray with cooking spray or grease with butter.
- Combine the dried cherries and the preserves into a chunky puree using a food processor. Set aside.
- Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in bowl of electric mixer. Using the paddle attachment for the mixer, beat in 16 tablespoons of butter, as well as the vanilla and almond extract at slow speed, until the mixture comes together in moist clumps. Set aside 1 cup of the mixture in a separate bowl for the streusel topping.
- Gather remaining dough together into a ball and press into the prepared baking pan. Pierce dough all over with a fork and bake until golden, about 22 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.
- Remove crust from oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
- While crust is cooling, make the streusel topping add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, light brown sugar, oats and almonds to the reserved dough and mix with a fork or pastry blender until small clumps form.
- Once crust is cool, spread cherry filling over it with a spatula and sprinkle streusel topping on top. Bake until filling is bubbling and streusel topping is golden brown, about 25 to 27 minutes.
- Remove from oven and set pan on wire rack to cool for two hours. Remove bars from the pan using foil sling and cut into squares to serve.