Tuesday, July 04, 2006

When jam fails, make cookies

So, every year I go strawberry picking down the road, and every year I make jam with those berries. Not the kind Nana used to make, with all the boiling of jars and steamed up windows and cooked jam. Freezer jam - jam for idiots. I am a baker, not a canner.
But even freezer jam is not foolproof, as I found out the next day and realized the jam had not set, and had in fact become strawberry waffle syrup instead. In retrospect, I think I was a bit conservative with the sugar, and if you do not measure exactly, your jam will not set.
So, after making and eating crepes with said strawberry syrup for breakfast, I considered my plight, and the fate of the remaining jars of jam-syrup.
When I was pregnant (can't remember which time), I stopped often at the strawberry farm down the street, and became hooked on one of their baked goods - jam bar cookies, they had inexquisitely named them. I dubbed them 'butter bars of yum'. And then Andrea-the-baker stopped making them and I was sad. But then one day, after much begging, Andrea gave me the recipe, and I was happy. And happier still when I accurately cut down the recipe from commercial kitchen sized to my 5qt Kitchenaid size.

Here's the thing: you need to have a stand mixer OR you need to put the ingredients in a very large bowl and use your hands. Messy work. I prefer the mixer, my single best kitchen investment to date.

Butter-Jam Bars of Yum
In the order listed, place in mixer bowl:
One pound (yes, four sticks) of cold butter, cut into cubes
2 1/2 cups brown sugar
1Tbsp vanilla
5 1/3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups oats
1 cup+2Tbsp shredded coconut
1 cup + 2Tbsp chopped walnuts (I use walnut meal which is dirt cheap at Trader Joe's and I use it to sneak protein in on Supergirl's pancakes and so forth)

Mix with paddle on low speed (#1) until coarse meal. Do not overmix.
It will just barely fit in your mixer bowl if you have a small one like I do, but do not despair - it looked as though it would overflow, but I only lost about a tablespoon of dough over the edge.

Butter a standard (approx 11x17)cookie sheet pan, or even better, line with parchment paper. I was out of parchment and used foil this time.
Reserve about 2 cups of the mixture in a separate bowl; spread and firmly press the remainder evenly over the pan. Bake at 325 (hot ovens more like 300) for 15 minutes, then remove pan from oven but leave oven on.
Spread (or, as in my case, pour) two to three (1/2 pint size) jars of jam over the dough (I used two but wished I had used three), crumble the remaining meal/dough on top, and bake for about 40 minutes. Let cool, and cut into bars.

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