A new year rolls around and most people use that as motivation to clean out their closets. In my case it wasn't the closet that needed a thorough once over, it was my pantry. As a baker I seem to collect (alright hoard!) baking ingredients. I admit it's an addiction, but I can't help it!
So what are some of my spoils? Let's see: 15 pounds of Ghiradelli white chocolate candy making and dipping bars (for petits fours), 8 pounds of dutch-processed cocoa (too good of a deal at Costco to pass up) and bags and bags of dried fruit from Trader Joe's, just to name a few.
A jar of cherry preserves caught my eye as I was going through the pantry shelves and I knew I wanted to make something with it. As luck would have it I happened upon a recipe for these shortbread bars online. Good thing I had all the ingredients on hand which was additional motivation to make them.
The bars have a nice buttery cookie crust and the cherries provide a great tart contrast. The only change I'd make is to use a 9x9 inch pan, rather than the 9x13 suggested in the original recipe. I thought using the larger pan made the bars too thin.
Cherry-Almond Shortbread Bars (adapted from Dessert Magazine)
1 cup whole almonds
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 8 pieces
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 1/4 cups cherry preserves
1 cup dried cherries
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a 9-by-9-inch square baking pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, making sure that the foil is tucked into all the corners and that there is at least 1 inch overhanging the top of the pan on all sides.
Place the almonds and sugar in a food processor and pulse about 10 times until the nuts are finely ground (the mixture should look like very coarse sand). Add the flour, salt, butter, and vanilla, and pulse another 8 to 10 times until the mixture is crumbly.
Transfer half of the almond mixture to the prepared pan and press it into a compact, even layer with your fingertips. Spread the preserves evenly over the dough with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the dried cherries over this. Press the remaining almond mixture into loose, large crumbles and scatter them evenly over the cherries and preserves.
Bake until the jam is bubbling and the topping is golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let it cool completely.
Grasping the overhanging foil on either side of the pan, lift out the bars and place them on a cutting board. Cut into 36 pieces, and peel them from the foil.