cherry & orange jam bars

This week, I’ve been thinking of cherries. One of my favorite parts of summer is taking a bag of cherries on a lazy picnic and letting the sun warm them before eating.

This week has also been about patience. Mostly patience with myself. My anxiety-brain has been hyperactive this week, and I’ve had to work extra hard to stay focused on reality, and not the sharply spun worries my brain manufactures.

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These cherry and orange jam bars were a wonderful bright spot of success this week. I made the jam on Sunday — I literally dumped a pound of still-frozen cherries into a pot with the juice of one lemon and about a half cup of sugar, brought it to a boil, and then simmered on low for around 20 minutes. I poured it into a jar and let it cool in the fridge.

All of the recipes I looked at included oats, and since I was also making oatmeal cookies on Tuesday night, I wanted something more shortbread-like. This is a riff off of Mark Bittman’s Lemon Bars dough, which I made a few weeks ago and really liked.  These ended up crisp on the bottom, and solid enough that the jam didn’t ooze as you ate them.

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Cherry & Orange Jam Bars

3/4 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 egg

1.5 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

orange zest of one orange

3/4 cup cherry jam

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line an 8×8 pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper and lightly butter.

Cream butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in egg, vanilla, and orange zest. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt, then fold into butter/sugar mixture. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Press 2/3 of the dough into the pan. Spread the jam over pan, leaving 1/2″ border around the edge (helps keep the jam from cooking to the side of the pan). Pinch small lumps of the remaining dough and “rub” between your fingers to flatten before dropping over the jam.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until lightly golden and set in the center. Dust with confectioners sugar. Let cool completely before removing from the pan — I popped mine in the fridge overnight. Cut into 16 squares.

I can see lots of possible variations on this — brown butter, pecan or almond flour, different flavors of jam — or even peanut butter & jelly!

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