Cookie Carnival: Blackberry Almond Bars

by Holly on July 17, 2008

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Look! It’s a carnival! And cookies are involved! Probably why it is called a Cookie Carnival!

Yes. I have an incredible grasp of the obvious and I am a total dork – a double threat! Strangely, I am fine with that.
Lovely Kate at The Clean Plate Club chose a bar cookie from Williams-Sonoma this time around and I have to say, I was intrigued.
What you see before you are Blackberry Almond Bars. I was intrigued because (1) I love lemon bars and this is a similar idea and (2) I don’t really love blackberries because of the seeds – which are gone here. So, what would stop me from trying somerhing new and different to me? Nothing. Nothing at all.
Now, I may be the only one who has never heard of making curd out of something other than a citrus (lemon, orange and lime being the main ones I’ve heard of), but that was the main reason this recipe caught my attention. Maybe I would have found out or thought of it eventually (ok, probably not) but the idea of making blackberry curd was just too cool to pass up.

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The crust is a simple shortbread crust (but with some extra style and oomph as I would expect from WS) that has toasted, ground almonds (yum!). Simply bake that, remove from oven, pour slightly cooled curd on and bake, just like lemon bars.

The finished bars were cute, classy, tart and seriously yummy. I’m pretty sure the shortbread base will become a go-to recipe for me and now I feel like there are whole new realms of curdy (so not a word, I’m sure) goodness opened up to me.

The only fiddling I actually did (for once) was to line the pan with buttered foil for easy removal and cutting, and I added a bit of almond extract to the curd just carry over the almond flavor from the crust. Oh, and you’ll notice that the recipe calls for a chinois and though I know what that is, I don’t happen to have one. I just used a fine mesh strainer and the back of a spoon.

You should definitely give these a try – how can you resist how cute they are!?

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BLACKBERRY ALMOND BARS
(Williams-Sonoma)

INGREDIENTS:

For the shortbread:
12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ground toasted almonds
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

For the blackberry curd:
2 pints blackberries
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 tsp. pure almond extract (optional)

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat an oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9-by-13-by-2-inch cake pan (or line with foil and butter the foil).

To make the shortbread, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the butter, flour, almonds, granulated sugar and salt and process until small lumps form. Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared pan and press evenly into the bottom. Bake until the shortbread is golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

Meanwhile, make the blackberry curd: In a food processor or blender, puree the blackberries until smooth. Pass the puree through a chinois set over a bowl, using a pestle to press on the solids and extract as much juice as possible; discard the solids. You should have about 3/4 cup juice.

In the top pan of a double boiler or in a nonreactive saucepan, whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar until blended. Then whisk in the blackberry juice, salt and lemon juice. Set the top pan over but not touching simmering water in the bottom pan, or set the saucepan over medium-low heat. (If using a saucepan, take care not to heat the mixture too quickly.) Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula or spoon, until the mixture is warmed through, 1 to 2 minutes.

Begin adding the butter a little at a time, stirring each addition until blended before adding more. Continue cooking, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, until a finger drawn across the back of the spatula leaves a path, 8 to 10 minutes more. Immediately remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the almond extract, if using. Pass the curd through the chinois set over a bowl and let stand for 10 minutes.

Whisk to blend, then pour the curd over the shortbread, spreading it evenly to the edges.
Bake until the curd is set, about 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Cut into individual bars, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Dust the bars with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Makes 20 bars (or 40 1-inch squares).

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Manggy July 17, 2008 at 10:03 am

You know, I agree with your non-chinois method– too fine a sieve sounds thin and a waste of the precious solids. Lovely color you’ve achieved on the curd! I think I could finish all those in a heartbeat!

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April July 17, 2008 at 12:43 pm

MMM, these look delicious!

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kate July 17, 2008 at 2:15 pm

lovely as always, holly!

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Anonymous July 17, 2008 at 3:08 pm

I love the combination of blackberries and almonds – it’s both elegant and incredibly tempting!

Ari (Baking and Books)

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Maria July 17, 2008 at 3:25 pm

I love blackberries! I will have to try this recipe soon! Thanks!

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Deborah July 17, 2008 at 4:16 pm

Seriously – you are the queen of different events – I don’t know how you do it! I’m intrigued by the idea of a blackberry curd as well – I’ll have to remember this one!

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Jules Someone July 17, 2008 at 7:59 pm

I have to make these soon. Fresh blackberries were a fortune, so I’m using frozen. I figure that since they have to cook anyway it just may work. We’ll see how it turns out.

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Stephanie July 17, 2008 at 8:52 pm

I made these today (but with raspberries) and loved them! I used a mesh strainer and the back of a spoon too 🙂

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Mary Ann July 17, 2008 at 10:11 pm

Those look so, so good!

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Kevin July 18, 2008 at 2:48 am

Those look really good! Nice photos!

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ChichaJo July 18, 2008 at 4:40 am

They look brilliant! 🙂

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Jenny July 18, 2008 at 5:33 am

Looks like a perfect cookie treat! Really beautiful!

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Lynnylu July 18, 2008 at 11:12 am

Your blackberry curd looks awesome.

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Prudy July 19, 2008 at 5:10 am

Holly-you have a gift for food styling. I’m telling you those look better than any cookies I’ve seen in magazines this month. I have to make these-just saw them on another site with strawberry and they looked delicious too.

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LyB July 23, 2008 at 12:10 am

Wow, Holly, those look fabulous! I absolutely love the color of that curd. I would have never thought of making curd with blackberries, it sounds awesome.

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kamailesfood July 23, 2008 at 5:33 am

I made these today and they are so good. I have to give some away or I’ll eat the whole pan! Your cutting skills are much better than mine. My bars didn’t come out so straight.

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Pamela August 1, 2008 at 1:41 am

Wow. Those are the best looking cookie bars I have seen in quite some time. Beautiful. And tasty too, right? Excellent job.

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Roni August 6, 2008 at 7:58 pm

That’s the method I used for my chinois, too. Your bars look amazing. Love the pics!

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