I don’t want to think about it being late August, or August at all. I don’t want to think about summer ending and taking with it its bounty of everything good. I don’t want to think about the ice cream maker that will sit collecting dust for a year, or about the peaches I won’t taste all winter.
So I won’t! I won’t. Instead, here’s what I will do:
- I will eat a lot of fresh berries
- I will eat a lot of ice cream
- I will lay by the beach and get sand everywhere
- I will dip my toes in the ocean
- I will read wonderful summer poetry
- I will make Spiced Stone Fruit Crumble Bars!
Please note: the above list is not written in order of importance. In fact, I think the last bullet point may be the most important, because it is everything, everything I love about summer: spiced and sugared fruits, tucked between two crumbly layers, baked until jammy and gooey, and then cut into bars which, did I mention, are the easiest thing ever to make?
Because they are. The crust and the crumble are basically one and the same, the fruits are merely sliced and spiced and the whole thing bakes for less than an hour. The resulting bars are lightly spiced, tart with apricots, lush with peach juice, and singing with sweet plum flavor. They’re like shortbread on the bottom, like crumble on top, and best of all, they freeze beautifully, which means you can make a tray, freeze it, and bake it in October, when the apples and pumpkins are inescapable.
It’s like instant summer, in bar form. And I’m a big, big proponent of such a thing.
Yield: one 9×13 pan, around 25 bars
Dough adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Why I love this recipe: in a twist of simplicity, both the crust and the crumble are comprised of one dough, which turns shortbread-like on the bottom and stays crisp and buttery on the top. The fruits are spiced and flavored with whiskey, molasses and vanilla and they turn jammy, tart, sweet, and incredibly flavorful.
Notes: these bars freeze, unbaked, for a few weeks. Simply remove them from the freezer and bake for five or ten minutes longer than what I’ve written below.
The fruits listed below are a combination that I found yielded a perfect amount of sweet/tart flavor. You can play around with the amounts (substituting, for example, more peaches for plums), but make sure you’re getting the same yield at the end.
For the dough/crumble:
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 sticks cold, unsalted butter (1 cup)
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
For the filling:
- 6 apricots, washed, sliced and stone removed
- 3 big plums, washed, sliced and stone removed
- 3 big peaches, washed, sliced and stone removed
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon unsulphured molasses
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon whiskey
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease and paper a 9×13 inch pan.
- In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, baking powder and 3 cups flour.
- Using a spatula or a fork, blend in the butter and egg. The dough will be crumbly. Pat half of it into the prepared pan.
- To the other half of the dough, add the remaining salt, the oats and the dark brown sugar. Combine and set aside until needed.
- In another bowl, stir together the fruit, sugar, cornstarch and spices. Add the molasses, vanilla extract and whiskey. Gently mix to combine.
- Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the crust. Thickly scatter the remaining crumble over the fruit.
- Bake in preheated oven for 45-55 minutes, or until top is slightly brown.
- Cool completely before cutting into squares.