After sitting out last month I am so happy to be back participating in the Improv Cooking Challenge!
This fun group of cooks, chefs, bakers, bloggers is hosted by Kristen from The Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker. And every month, Kristen gives us 2 ingredients to incorporate into a recipe of our choice. Can you guess from the picture what we worked with this month? . . . . .
Cherries and Almonds! Always a sweet and crunchy combination! I decided to make these really scrumptious cherry almond bars; the base of which is puffed pastry! Bing and maraschino cherries keep this sweet and colorful while almond meal and extract give it substance and richness. All sitting atop a light, buttery pastry crust!
Though the total baking time is about 1 hour and 15 minutes for these beauties, they really are a breeze to throw together and lend themselves well to most any fruit in season.
Yields: 9-12 bars
Level of Difficulty: easy
CHERRY ALMOND PASTRY BARS:
- 1 sheet of ready made puff pastry, thawed
- 10 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup of granulated sugar
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2/3 cup of almond meal
- 3 Tablespoons of all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract
- 6 ounces of Bing cherries, pitted and halved
- 2 ounces of maraschino cherries, drained and halved or chopped
- 1/4 cup of sliced almonds
Preheat your oven to 400°F. Lightly spray a 9 inch square baking pan with cooking spray and line it with parchment paper, leaving enough paper to hang over two sides of the pan.
Place the thawed puff pastry onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Prick the pastry all over with a fork and then bake it for about 15 minutes until it is nice and golden brown. Though the pastry will still puff up a bit, it will also shrink a little. When it has cooled enough to handle, ease the pastry into the bottom of the 9 inch baking pan. You may have to trim one edge slightly.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Gradually add one beaten egg at a time, mixing after each addition. Next add the almond extract. Finally, fold in the almond meal and flour. Pour this mixture over the top of the pastry and even it out with your offset spatula. Scatter the cherries and almonds on top and bake for one hour or until lightly golden in color. Cool the cake in the pan. Then use the paper handles to lift it out. Cut into bars and you may sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.
These are chewy, buttery and sweet. The almonds give it a nutty crunch. I have made these bars using raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. And they were equally good! I’m looking forward to making these with apples, pears, cinnamon and vanilla in the fall!
NOTE: If you use berries, substitute the juice of half a lemon instead of the extract.
Adapted from The Essential Baking Cookbook.
Oh, and don’t forget to check out what my fellow Improvers did with their cherries and almonds!