Hi. It’s me. The food blogger who has been posting recipes for about a year and a half now and who still hasn’t shared ONE traditional pie recipe yet! I believe I’ve mentioned it before in a previous post, but pies aren’t my strong suit and if someone asked me to make them a pie, I would most likely have a panic attack and then pick one up from Marie Callendars and said I baked it.
When I tell other bakers that I’m nervous of making pies, they’re usually understanding… if you didn’t grow up baking them or at least practice the process over the years, pies can definitely be daunting. There’s the stress of making the dough, from having to worry about your warm hands melting the butter to allowing the dough to chill in the fridge. You have to be proactive when it comes to avoiding a “soggy bottom”, which means figuring out if you need to parbake the crust or not. And then (what I fear the most) is making your pie look beautiful whether it’s with a perfect lattice crust or the cutesy little dough flower or leaf cut-outs that you see bakers doing on Pinterest and Instagram. I am not an arts and crafts kind of person (I can barely cut in a straight line) and therefore the thought of decorating a pie is just not fun to think about. I’m not saying pie is the hardest thing to make! I’m just saying that there is a lot to consider when attempting to bake one.
So, this is why I LOVE making galettes, tarts, and today’s recipe: pie bars. These three categories of desserts are all super forgiving in almost every step along the way and just seem to be much less fussy than when tackling a pie. Since I’ve given you a recipe for a galette and a tart, it’s time to work with the very straightforward and simple recipe of pie bars. Pie bars take everything you would normally find in a pie - a crust, a filling of your choice, and a topping in the form of a crisp or streusel. No difficult lattice work to be found here!
And mark my words, I promise that I will do an apple pie recipe around Thanksgiving time. Apple pie à la mode is up there when it comes to my favorite desserts, so I will definitely work on perfecting a recipe to share with you all.
Since we’re in the midst of stone fruit and berry season, I thought we’d take a fruit from each category and marry them together for these pie bars. I choice to work with yellow peaches and blackberries, but feel free to switch it up to your liking and substitute the stone fruit with apricots, nectarines, plums or pluots, and the berry component with raspberries or blueberries.
Sidenote: I visited the Laguna Beach Farmers Market this past weekend and tried the most amazing stone fruit I’ve come across yet: cherums! It’s a hybrid of cherries and plums and they’re so crunchy and flavorful, and they were the perfect dessert for our beach picnic later that day. Try to get a hold of them at your local farmers market! Picture of them above (along with the pluots that I also bought).
The crust for these pie bars isn’t exactly a typical pie crust recipe, but actually the shortbread crust that I used for my lemon bars. This crust is made with three ingredients (flour, powdered sugar, and melted butter) and comes together in less than 5 minutes. There’s no chilling, no rolling out; all you need is to mix the ingredients together and then press it into the bottom of the baking dish with your hands or a spatula.
As for the filling, you can play around a bit with a couple of things: 1) how much sugar you’ll be adding and 2) what kind of spices you wish to use. If your fruit isn’t exactly at the peak of ripeness, I would suggest adding a tablespoon or 2 to what I have suggested below in the directions, and if your fruit is perfectly sweet, follow the recipe as written. For the added spices, I stuck to those that are most commonly found in pies, but you can use your favorites whether than means adding only cinnamon, a combo of nutmeg and cardamom, or a little bit of each.
Lastly, for the topping, we’ll be using a crisp mixture, which basically means a streusel topping but with old fashioned/rolled oats added. I kept it simple and added only a bit of cinnamon to my mixture but once again, you can add more spices to your liking, but I’d recommend sticking to adding no more than 1 teaspoon of spices combined. I also added chopped pecans for extra crunch and flavor, but adding nuts is totally optional.
Peach and Blackberry Pie Bars
Makes about 9-12 bars, depending on size
For the crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
2 medium unpeeled peaches (about 1.5-2 cups), chopped
1 (6 oz.) package of blackberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. of ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
For the crisp topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup old-fashioned/rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup (half a stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a bowl, mix together the melted butter, flour and sugar until well incorporated. The dough will be a bit crumbly. Transfer the dough to an ungreased 8x8 baking dish (alternatively, you can line the dish with a piece of parchment paper if you wish to pull the entire baked good out). Using your hands or the back of a spatula, press the dough evenly into the dish.
Bake the shortbread crust for about 15-17 minutes, or until the dough has firmed up and is golden. Set aside to cool, but keep the oven on at 350°F.
In a large bowl, toss all “filling” ingredients (everything from peaches to vanilla extract) together gently using a spatula. Set aside to allow the fruit to macerate a little.
For the crisp topping, add all ingredients except for the chilled butter to a medium bowl. Mix together using a whisk. Add the butter and use your fingertips to work it into the mixture until crumbs form.
Pour the fruit filling over the slightly chilled shortbread crust and then evenly sprinkle the crisp topping over the fruit (using a spoon or your hand). Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the crisp topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling. Allow the pie bars to cool completely before cutting into them. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.