Blackberry Pie Bars

I’m not sure if it’s just hotter in New York City because of the buildings and commotion, but I feel as if I’m about to melt on a daily basis here.  Doesn’t help that my outfit everyday consists of paper-thin scrubs that show any ounce of sweat, so by the time I get onto the subway I’m speckled with dark spots and topped with a frizzball for hair.  If there’s one thing I can be thankful for with all this sunshine, it’s the fruit vendors here in the city on almost every corner.  I learned recently that they’re actually subsidized by a city health council to make produce more accessible, and more importantly, affordable.  So even though everything is more expensive here in NYC, I can still stock up on berries without breaking the bank!  And when I decided to christen my new oven this past weekend, I chose a recipe I’ve had my eye on for ages that would make use of these bountiful berries – blackberry pie bars!

If you follow a plethora of baking blogs like me, you’ve probably come across these bars, or something very similar, in the past few months.  Since taking my first bite I totally understand their popularity and am already thinking of ways to remix the recipe as an excuse to make them again.  Ryan even claimed they were one of the top 5 things I’ve ever made (which means a lot when you bake as much as I do!), and he almost forgave me for turning on the oven in our tiny apartment on a 90+ degree day.  I’ve never had blackberry pie, and after Google Imaging some pictures I don’t think blackberry pie normally looks anything like these bars, but since the blackberries are baked and there’s crust involved, I’ll call them pie bars if everyone else is!

The bars are made up of a thick, salty, and perfectly crumbly shortbread crust that’s topped with a creamy blackberry mixture spiked with almond extract and lemon zest.  The flavors are phenomenal, the color is beautifully vibrant, and when enjoyed straight from the fridge they’re a perfectly refreshing summer treat.  It’s too bad your oven needs to be on for almost an hour for these, but hopefully you have central air or a big fan somewhere in your kitchen :)  As for me, I’m just used to the constant stream of sweat by now, so I was willing to put up with the heat to make these delicious bars.  Our kitchen may be small, but I’m so excited I was still able to spread out enough to bake and it felt so good to be back in the swing of things.  The fact that our apartment is also lined with windows doesn’t hurt when it came to photographing either – I have a feeling I’m going to be churning out a lot of really delicious and beautiful treats in this small space!

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Blackberry Pie Bars

Recipe adapted from Tracey's Culinary Adventures

Ingredients:

for the crust:
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes

for the filling:
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
16 oz fresh blackberries

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8x8" pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, sugar, and salt and pulse a few times to combine. While continuing to pulse, add the butter until the mixture is crumbly and resembles pebbles. I like to use my (clean) hands to rub the mixture together and make sure the flour is well incorporated. Put 3/4 cup of the mixture in a small bowl and set aside.

Dump the remainder of the mixture into the prepared pan and press evenly to form the crust. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Transfer pan to a wire rack and cool for at least 10 minutes.

To make the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, sour cream, flou, salt, lemon zest, almond extract, and vanilla extract in a medium bowl until well combined. Add the blackberries and gently fold with a rubber spatula. Spread the filling over the crust evenly. Sprinkle the remaining crust mixture over the berries, squeezing the crust mixture in between your fingers to form clumps that vary in size.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the bars are set. Transfer to a wire rack and allow the bars to cool completely in the pan. Resist the urge to cut into them too soon! I found them easiest to cut neatly after the pan was in the fridge for awhile too. I actually preferred eating them straight from the fridge, but that's totally up to you!