Every now and then, I'll get really excited and hyper and tell you that a recipe is the best thing I've made in a long time. These Cherry Brown Butter Bars? The best thing I've made in a very, very, very long time.
It doesn't hurt that I had some gorgeous California cherries to work with. But the cherries are only one part of what makes this rich, buttery bar cookie so good. It's that elusive custardy quality that I've never seen in a bar or cookie before, but appears so magically here with very little effort. It's sort of like a clafoutis with a cookie crust that you can pick up and eat with your hands.
Use any fruit here, but if you can find fresh Bing cherries, and have a pitter on hand, don't miss out on the original!
Cherry Brown Butter Bars
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 16 bars
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
1 pound sweet cherries, which will yield 12 ounces of pitted cherries (or 12 ounces of the berry of your choice)
1. Make crust: Preheat over to 375°F. Cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper and trim each to fit the 8-inch width of an 8×8-inch square baking pan. Press it into the bottom and sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, perpendicular to the first sheet.
2. Using rubber spatula or fork, mix melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl. Add flour and salt and stir until incorporated. Transfer dough to your prepared pan, and use your fingertips to press the dough evenly across the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust until golden, about 18 minutes (it will puff slightly while baking). Transfer crust to rack and cool in pan. Maintain oven temperature.
3. Make the filling: Cook butter in heavy small saucepan (a lighter-colored one will make it easier to see the color changing, which happens quickly) over medium heat until deep nutty brown (do not burn), stirring often and watching carefully, about six minutes. Immediately pour browned butter into glass measuring cup to cool slightly.
4. Whisk sugar, eggs, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add flour and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk browned butter into sugar-egg mixture; whisk until well blended.
5. Arrange pitted cherries, or the berries of your choice, in bottom of cooled crust. Carefully pour browned butter mixture evenly over the fruit. Bake bars until filling is puffed and golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool bars completely in pan on rack.
6. Use the parchment paper overhang to carefully remove cooled bars from pan and place them on a cutting board and cut them into squares with a very sharp knife. The cherries, if they fall over your slicing lines, will want to give you trouble but if you saw a sharp knife into them slowly before pressing down, they’ll cut neatly and with minimum carnage.