Rapsberry Squares

My fridge is a complete disaster right now.  I have so many odds and ends taking up space in there it’s like playing Tetris every time I need to find room for another item.  These bars were one of the first things I baked in an effort to remedy this issue.  A few weeks ago, I bought a jar of raspberry preserves for another recipe which only called for a few tablespoons, meaning I had almost a whole jar of preserves left.  Though I like jam, I’m not apt to use it for anything but baking.  Fortunately, I found this recipe on Cook’s Illustrated’s site that included 1 cup of raspberry preserves among its ingredient list and when I measured the remaining preserves in my jar, it was almost exactly 1 cup.  Problem solved!  As an added bonus, the recipe also required quick-cooking oats, which I had hanging out in my pantry.  I find that most recipes that call for oats specifically note that they should not be quick-cooking, so this particular container of oats was just begging to be utilized.

The hands-on time for this recipe is minimal and it couldn’t be easier to throw together.  I almost skipped the nuts in the crust, but since the quantity called for was relatively low in comparison to the other components and since they were finely chopped, I included them.  When I tried my first bite, I was glad I did!  The nuts added texture and their flavor was noticeable, but not overpowering.  The squares slice neatly, which is always one of my concerns about bar-type cookies.  I justified them as breakfast for quite a few days and also sent some to work with Shane, where they received positive reviews.  As soon as raspberries are in season around here I’ve got my eye on another recipe I saw on Cook’s Illustrated’s site as I was searching – it’s a bar cookie similar to this one but it includes fresh raspberries in addition to raspberry preserves and a streusel topping – yum!

Rapsberry Squares
from Cook’s Illustrated

1 1/2 cups (7.5 oz) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups quick-cooking oats
1/3 cup (2.3 oz) sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or almonds, or a combination
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened but still cool
1 cup raspberry preserves (I used seedless)

Preheat oven to 350 F, setting a rack in the lower-middle position.  Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on opposite sides.  Use a second piece of aluminum foil to line the pan, perpendicular to the first, and again, leave an overhang on opposite sides.  These “handles” will make it easy to remove the bars from the pan after they bake.  Spray the foil thoroughly with nonstick cooking spray.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, oats, sugars, baking soda, salt, and nuts at low speed until combined, about 30 seconds.  With the mixer still on low speed add the pieces of butter to the bowl and continue to beat until the mixture is well-blended and resembles wet sand, about 2 minutes.

Transfer 2/3 of this mixture to the prepared baking pan.  Use your fingers to press the mixture to form an even layer in the bottom of the pan.  Bake this bottom crust until it starts to brown, about 20 minutes.  Using a rubber spatula, immediately spread the preserves evenly over the hot crust.  Sprinkle the remainder of the oat/nut mixture evenly over preserves.  Put the pan back in the oven and bake until the preserves bubble around the edges and the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes. 

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely (at least 1 1/2 hours).  Once cool, use the foil “handles” to remove the bars from the pan.  Cut into about 1 1/2-inch squares. 

Yields about 25 squares