I picked up one of those “Holiday Desserts” magazines available at the grocery store checkout back in December. It turned out to be a more ambitious baking season than usual. I made up baskets with mini date-nut loaves and four different varieties of cookies for my loved ones. Consequently, I never got around to making these bars and the magazine stayed folded open to this page for a month on my kitchen counter, calling to me as I went on my January juice fast. I mentioned in the last post that I’ve been on a health kick since then, so the all-purpose flour and the sugar canisters have been very lonely in my cupboard for almost two months. It might have remained that way a while longer, but as any good church-going lady will tell you, pot lucks will just mess you up! Last Monday, when my ladies bible study small group was charged with bringing desserts, I knew it was time to make these bars and indulge in a bit of reward for all my discipline.
Although the cherry pie filling peeks through and the bars are finished with a confectioner’s sugar glaze, they are easy to cut, serve, and eat as finger food without creating messy fingers (difficult to manage at a pot luck where everyone is standing and balancing a paper plate). The dough is a light shortbread-like consistency, so the eating experience is more reminiscent of a cookie than a cake. I cut my 9×12 pan into 32 small bars, which made perfect bites. Most importantly, the flavor is just amazing. The almond extract in the glaze is a must, in my opinion.
Since these are bars, I bought this commercial baking pan that has square corners rather than using a glass baking dish with rounded corners. This way, there are no odd-shaped corner bars. I found metal works best for this recipe and suggest you use an aluminum pan without a non-stick coating.
I suspect you’ll have the same difficulty limiting yourself to just one as I did! Let me know in the comments how yours turned out.
For the Bars
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened (I used unsalted)
1/2 cup shortening (I used Crisco butter flavor shortening)
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 20-oz can cherry pie filling (I used Comstock Lite)
For the Glaze
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 tsp almond extract (I used slightly more, but definitely go easy here)
3-4 TBS milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat together butter and shortening with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Add the sugar, baking powder, and salt and beat until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl, then add in the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined. Reduce speed to medium-low and add the flour half a cup at a time until well combined. If your mixing bowl is too small, you can stir in any remaining flour with a wooden spoon.
Set aside about 1 3/4 cups of the dough and press the rest into the bottom of an ungreased 9×12″ baking pan. Bake for 12 minutes. Spread the cherry pie filling over the crust evenly. Make sure at least a little syrup covers every bit of crust, but don’t worry that there won’t be a whole cherry in every bite. The flavor is most important and we’re not going for a gooey bar. Drop the remaining dough in roughly tablespoon-sized mounds on top of the filling, leaving some gaps between the mounds.
Bake about 30 minutes more until the top is light brown. Cool the bars in the pan set on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. While cooling, mix together the confectioner’s sugar, almond extract, and just enough milk to make a thick (but smooth) drizzling consistency. Pour over the bars. Cool 10 minutes more, then score the top into the size bars you desire with a serrated knife. Don’t cut all the way through. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Carefully cut bars along the scored lines. If necessary, run your knife around the edges of the pan to loosen. I served these right in the pan as shown in the photo, but you can arrange them on a dish if you like. Leftovers can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Note: You may substitute any flavor pie filling and use vanilla extract in the glaze instead of almond.
Your Daily Bread
Exodus 22 Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. 24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log,and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.
There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, 26 saying,“If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.”