The weather in New York this past weekend was perfect. It finally feels like spring is exactly as it should be — 70 degrees and sunny. To celebrate, I met up with some friends from work for a picnic in Prospect Park.
I first went to Prospect Park this past fall and was blown away by the park’s beauty and magnitude. The green hills and trees make you feel like you’re not even in New York City. It’s a long subway ride from Astoria, but boy, is it worth it.
Last night’s picnic was met with not only good weather and company, but also, of course, delicious food. My friend Ally is also a food enthusiast, and she and her husband made a curried chickpea and carrot salad, a cucumber and avocado salad, and homemade pizza — all so fresh and flavorful. I brought along Ina Garten’s Mediterranean pasta salad, which I highly recommend if you’re in need of a good picnic or summer potluck dish.
And for dessert. Every time I thought of a dessert idea last week, I’d meander over to Ally’s desk and share my plans. First it was banana cake with caramel frosting. Then it was lemon cake squares. Finally, I settled on these pie bars. I’m glad I did.
These bars are a great picnic dessert because they have all the flavors of a homemade pie without the fuss of slicing and plating. These bars hold up well in transit (even across public transportation in three boroughs!), can be made in advance, and are easy to put out for a self-serve gathering.
The lemon zest in both the crust and the filling complement the sweetness of the jam and serve as a reminder that we really are heading toward summer. The spices in the crust and crumble add warmth and create that comforting freshly baked pie taste.
The jam that’s mixed into the filling is sweet enough that additional sugar isn’t needed. Of course you can change it up by adding some whole berries or swirling extra jam into the filling, which would make these pie bars burst with even more flavor.
I hope you had a wonderful spring weekend and that the next few weeks leading into summer bring you beautiful weather, fun with friends, and delicious food.
Strawberry Raspberry Jam Pie Bars
Adapted from Joy the Baker
– 3 cups flour
– 1 ½ cups turbinado sugar
– ¼ tsp. salt
– ¼ tsp. ground ginger
– ¼ tsp. all spice
– 1 tsp. cinnamon
– 3 sticks cold unsalted butter
– zest of 1 lemon
– 4 eggs
– ½ cup raspberry jam
– ½ cup strawberry jam
– 1 cup sour cream
– ¾ cup flour
– ¼ tsp. salt
– zest of 1 lemon
Combine all ingredients for the crust in a food processor. Once combined, the mixture should be crumbly but should hold together when squeezed. Press the mixture into a 9×13 inch pan. Leave 1 ½ cups aside for the top of the bars, and refrigerate. Bake the crust at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes.
While the crust is baking, make the filling. Whisk all ingredients until smooth. After the baked crust has cooled for about 10 minutes, pour the filling on top. Distribute the remaining crust evenly over the top of the filling so that it resembles a crumble. Bake for about an hour or until the filling has set.
Notes for next time:
– Pecans or walnuts would be a welcome addition to the crust. They would add both crunch and a buttery texture that would allow you to cut down on the amount of butter used. A mixture of finely ground and coarsely ground nuts would work well here.
– Add more lemon zest or juice. The consistency of the filling of these bars is similar to that of lemon squares. Adding more zest and juice to the filling would create a lemon square/fruit pie bar hybrid that would be lovely.