Ever since I made spicy strawberry jam a few weeks ago, I’ve been wanting to incorporate homemade jam into a dessert recipe. I made another batch a few days ago without the peppers and this time I used vanilla sugar instead of regular sugar. Oh my goodness. Just macerating the fresh berries in vanilla sugar for 10 minutes created the most delicious treat I’ve had in quite some time.
In the cooking world, macerating refers to softening or breaking down an ingredient and allowing the natural liquids to release. Macerated strawberries are a treat by themselves or over ice cream. And they are the perfect base for homemade strawberry jam. I’ve used Nielsen-Massey vanilla sugar in this recipe (which can also easily be made from scratch). These jam crumb bars have a buttery shortbread base, homemade strawberry vanilla jam in the middle and then a light, nutty crumb topping. They’re sweet, sticky and totally amazing.
- 2 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
- 1 3/4 cups vanilla sugar, such as Nielsen-Massey (regular sugar may be substituted)
- juice from 1 small lemon, approximately 2 tablespoons
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds, finely chopped
- pinch of sea salt
- 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Place strawberries and sugar in a large skillet. Stir until combined and allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes to allow some of the liquid to release from the berries. Add the lemon juice.
Turn the heat to medium and allow the mixture to come to a simmer, stirring frequently. The skillet will fill with liquid as it releases from the strawberries. Continue stirring until most of the liquid has evaporated or thickened up. This may take anywhere from 15-30 minutes. Once the jam is thick, remove it from the heat. It will continue to thicken as it cools.
Spray the inside of a 9x9 inch pan with baking spray and line it with parchment, allowing the paper to hang over two sides of the pan.
Cream the butter, powdered sugar and salt in a stand mixer on medium-high until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, lower the speed and gradually add the flour until the dough is smooth. Briefly stir to ensure the dough is evenly combined.
Using plastic wrap, press the dough evenly into the prepared pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the shortbread for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly golden on top. Allow to cool to room temperature.
To prepare the topping, combine the flour, brown sugar, almonds, salt and butter in a small bowl. Use a fork to mash the ingredients together until crumbly.
Spread 1 1/2 cups of the strawberry jam on top of the shortbread. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the jam.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the topping is brown. Allow to cool completely before slicing into bars.