High Country Baking: These raspberry almond bars take me back to western Europe
High Country Baking
Editor’s note: High altitudes make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
In pre-pandemic years, my husband and I often hiked in western Europe in the summertime. The hikes were glorious but, for me, the bakeries we encountered along the way were just as memorable. The pastries were delicious, and these little bars remind me of them. Almonds and raspberry jam, a common combination throughout the countries we visited, provide sweetness and flavor. But the crust and crumbly topping are the stars of this gem, made with a dough that combines egg yolks, vanilla and lots of butter, it’s beautifully rich yet wonderfully delicate.
To get the best results, use a high-quality unsalted butter and the best raspberry preserves/jam you can find. Take care as you work with the dough, it mustn’t come together in a smooth mass, but rather remain in small clumps to create the wonderful texture that makes these bars so good.
Raspberry almond bars
Recipe works at any elevation; Make in a 9-inch-by-9-inch shiny metal baking pan
- 1 ½ (one and a half) cups bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
- 2/3 (two thirds) cup superfine granulated sugar
- ½ (one half) teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ (one half) teaspoon salt
- 12 (twelve) tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter. cold
- 2 (two) large egg yolks
- 1 ¼ (one and a fourth) teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ½ (one half) cup raspberry jam or preserves
- ¾ (three fourths cup (3 ounces) sliced almonds, coarsely crushed
Chocolate Drizzle, optional
- 2 (two) ounces dark chocolate
- ½ (one half) teaspoon canola oil
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line your pan with non-stick or regular aluminum foil, extending it several inches from two opposing sides to use as handles when removing the baked bars. Grease the regular foil and any exposed parts of the pan with a baking spray that contains flour. Set the pan aside.
- Pulse the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade until blended. Cut the butter into 12 pieces, add them, and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal with some pea-sized lumps of butter still visible. Add the yolks and vanilla and pulse only until small moist clumps form, don’t continue until the dough is smooth.
- Dump three-fourths of the dough into the bottom of your prepared pan and gently pat it until it’s level; don’t smooth it, you want the clumps of dough to remain intact, they create the tender texture that makes these bars so good. Stir the raspberry jam to loosen it or warm it in a microwave oven until it softens and then spread it evenly over the dough. Crumble the rest of the dough over the jam and top it with a layer of sliced almonds.
- Bake until the jam is bubbling, the top is golden, and the edges are slightly darker, 22-27 minutes. Remove from the oven, place the pan on a rack, and cool completely.
- To add the chocolate drizzle, if you’re using it, chop the chocolate finely, place it in a microwave-safe bowl, and warm in a microwave at low-medium heat (I use #4 out of 10) until it’s almost fully melted, with some small lumps still visible. Remove it from the oven, add the canola oil, and stir until it’s smooth and shiny. If necessary, let it rest until it firms up a little but is still pourable. Use the foil handles to remove the slab of cookies from the pan and drizzle the chocolate decoratively over the top. Let the chocolate firm up, cut the slab into bars and lift them off the foil. Store then, covered, in the refrigerator. Serve them warm (their best) or at room temperature.
This recipe is a variation of one published in Gourmet Magazine. Vera Dawson, Ph.D., is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks (available at The Bookworm in Edwards, Next Page Bookstore in Frisco). She’s lived in the Rockies since 1991 and has been developing and adjusting recipes so that they work at our altitude ever since. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.