Sometimes the simplest recipes are the ones that turn out to be the most satisfying because you get the best return on flavor for your investment of [not much] time. These bars are like that. Shortbread is a very basic kind of cookie to make that the bars are made up of shortbread, using the exact same mixture for the crust and the crumble topping. The filling is just jam and,while you want to use a jar of top quality jam or preserves to get the best flavor, it doesn’t take much effort to pop open a jar of your favorite brand. Preparation takes about 5 minutes and then the bars are ready to hit the oven.
And when the bars come out, you won’t be disappointed. The shortbread is buttery and tender, crumbling easily into your mouth even though it holds its shape enough to slice cleanly (mostly cleanly; use a sharp knife!). I considered griding up the pecans into a meal, rather than just chopping them finely with my chefs knife. I actually liked the bit of texture that they gave to the bars. Pecans were probably a better choice than almonds or hazelnuts, which don’t quite have the buttery texture of the pecan, but walnuts would work well here, too. Lightly toasted, unsalted pecans were my favorite for this, although untoasted pecans will still come out well and will become somewhat toasty in the oven.
Use any flavor of jam that you like. I oped for strawberry because it’s strawberry season and I just can’t get enough of the ultra-ripe berries right now. The jam I used actually came from a local farmers market. I think that the bars would be amazing with blackberry jam, since blackberries tend to have a deeper flavor than strawberries, but you could even use something like sweet-tart marmalade if you prefer.
Strawberry Pecan Shortbread Crumble Bars
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
3/4 cup strawberry jam/preserves
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil and lightly grease.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt and pecans, then stir in the butter and egg until mixture is crumbly, like coarse and wet sand. Set aside 2 cups of the mixture, and pour the remaining mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Press down gently, but firmly, into an even layer.
Spread strawberry jam over the shortbread layer. Sprinkle remaining crumbs evenly over the top. If the mixture is too wet to sprinkle, simply break it up with lightly floured fingers and spread it out.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until lightly browned.
Cool bars in the pan before slicing.
Makes 24 small bars.