There are many simple desserts out there that you can bake with fresh berries, but few are as simple as these Cornmeal Berry Bars. The bars are made with a cornmeal shortbread base and filled with a combination of jam and fresh berries. It’s a lot like a fruit cobbler, but more buttery and much easier to cut into individual portions.
The shortbread mixture is easy to make. It uses butter, flour, cornmeal and almond flour, as well as some sugar. The same mixture is used to make both the base for this recipe and the crumble topping. The cornmeal gives the shortbread a bit of additional texture and actually adds a hint of additional sweetness. The almond flour gives the shortbread a little more substance, so the base packs down firmly and stands up to being handled after it is cut into individual portions.
The filling is comprised of a layer of apricot jam that is topped with fresh berries. I used a mixture of raspberries and blackberries, although blueberries or other favorite berries can be used. Fresh berries are ideal, as they will not give off too much additional moisture during baking, so try to use what is in season when making this recipe!
Apricot jam is a common sweetener in many fruit desserts. While apricots are delicious on their own, the flavor of the jam is subtle and won’t overshadow the flavor of the berries that it is paired with. Apricot jam is often used as a finishing glaze on fruit tarts for that same reason. That being said, there is no real reason that you can’t use a berry jam if you want to ramp up the berry flavor in the filling even more, so raspberry or strawberry preserves can work as an alternative to apricot.
These bars should not be cut when they are still warm, as they will just bee too crumbly. I like to bake them the night before I intend to serve them so that the layers have time to meld together, ensuring that the bars will cut in relatively neat pieces. You don’t need to bake them a day in advance, but do wait until they have cooled before slicing them.
Cornmeal Berry Bars
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup almond flour
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup apricot jam
12 oz fresh mixed berries (raspberries, blackberries, etc)
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease an 8×8-inch square baking pan and line with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, almond flour and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in the flour mixture and mix until everything resembles coarse sand.
Transfer 2 1/2 cups of the flour mixture into the prepared pan and press firmly into an even layer.
Soften the apricot jam slightly and spread it on top of the shortbread base in the pan. Arrange berries in a single layer on the top of the jam.
Squeeze the remaining shortbread mixture in your fist to form it into crumbles, then sprinkle evenly over the top of the berries.
Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the crumble is lightly browned.
Allow bars to cool completely before slicing.
Makes 16-20 bars.