Blackberry Pie Bars

I just adore this time of year, not only for the gorgeous spring weather but because berries finally start coming into season! Berry season is my favorite :) I hold my breath with anticipation each week walking into the grocery store to discover what types of berries they’ll have available, and then I inevitably stock up on way more than I could possibly hope to eat and/or bake with. It’ll be even more fun when I can get them at local farms, but up here in Rhode Island we’re about a month out for strawberries and raspberries and closer to two months for blueberries. Needless to say I’m incredibly jealous of my blogging friends in the south and out in California who have already been able to go and pick berries!

Blackberry Pie Bars

You’ll notice I didn’t mention blackberries above and that’s because they’re the exception to my berry-loving rule. Those giant seeds in blackberries just aren’t doing it for me so I never, ever eat them as is. I will, however, bake with them because I do like their flavor and the baking usually softens the seeds so they’re not as noticeable.

Blackberry Pie Bars

I’ve had these blackberry pie bars that Josie posted on my to-do list forever, and when I stumbled upon a crazy good deal on blackberries recently, I knew the time had come to finally try them. The timing was perfect to share them at our early Mother’s Day get-together too. They’re super easy to whip up, and I liked the result even more than I expected to. Buttery crust, sweet springy fruit filling, crumble topping – so much goodness going on! The texture of the filling is hard to describe – almost custardy but not in a bad way. I’m not a custard person, but I dug this filling. The bars were a hit with my mom and step-dad so I sent them home with most of them to remove the temptation for me to eat them for breakfast this week :)

Blackberry Pie Bars
adapted from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather via Pink Parsley

{Note: the flavor of the almond extract in the filling definitely comes through so if you’re not a fan of almond-flavored things you may want to substitute vanilla extract.}

Crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

Filling
2 large eggs
1 cups sugar
1/2 cup sour cream (low fat is fine)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
pinch salt
zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
16 oz fresh blackberries

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray an 8×8-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Add the flour, sugar, and salt to the bowl of your food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and continue pulsing until the pieces of butter are very small (like pebbles) and the mixture is crumbly. Transfer 3/4 cup of this mixture to a small bowl and set aside to use for the topping. Dump the remainder of the mixture into the prepared pan and press into an even layer to form the crust. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden and set. Remove the pan to a wire rack and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.

To make the filling: in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, sour cream, flour, salt, lemon zest, and almond extract until well combined. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the blackberries. Spread the filling over the crust (distributing the berries evenly). Top the filling with the reserved crust mixture – I like to squeeze in my hand to form clumps then sprinkle over the top so the pieces vary in size.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the bars are set (the topping won’t really brown much). Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow the bars to cool completely in the pan. To more easily cut them into squares, refrigerate briefly before serving. (I actually liked these best after an hour in the fridge!)