Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Brown Butter Berry Bars

Brown butter berry bars.  Try to say that three times fast.  It's no she-sells-sea-shells, but it's pretty close.  I used to get quite a kick out of the seashell store called She Sells Sea Shells in Sanibel Island when I was a kid.  We went there many a time to add to our shell collections, and I'm sure the name didn't hurt when enticing kids to venture in.

The name "brown butter berry bars" should entice my readers pretty easily too, I would imagine.  Browned butter is heaven on earth and baked goods made with it have an even richer, deeper flavor, I find.  The berries are perfect this time of year.  I happened to use my fresh-picked boysenberries, but I left that out of the title because "brown butter boysenberry bars" just sounds plain silly.  And as for the bar-aspect of this dessert, doesn't everyone love a dessert you can eat on the go?

These bars have a delicious crispy shortbread crust on the bottom that is topped with a creamy browned butter mix and delicious, ripe berries.  It's almost cheesecake-esque but without the cream cheese flavor.

Natalie and I originally made these bars with the cherries we picked, and I decided the recipe was so good that I would make it with my boysenberries too.  Good call, me.  I think these bars were even better with berries than with cherries, but that's because I think berries improve upon cooking but cherries don't.

This recipe can be made with any berry you have around.  If you use tart berries like I did, you will probably want to sprinkle an extra couple teaspoons of sugar on the berries before you pour on the filling.  If you use raspberries, you probably won't need this extra step.  This recipe works equally well with ungodly amounts of berries as it does with just a couple handfuls - feel free to customize for your fruit preferences.  The name, however, must stay as it is, because everyone loves a good tongue twister.  

Brown Butter Berry Bars
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 16 2-inch bars

7 tablespoon butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
Pinch of salt

1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick butter, cut up into cubes
At least two large handfuls of berries - I would suggest at least two clam shells

To make the crust:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line 8x8 or 9x9 baking pan with parchment paper - use two overlapping rectangles so the paper covers the sides as well.

Mix together melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in a small bowl.  Then add in flour and salt and mix until incorporated.  Add dough to papered pan and use fingers or a spatula to press the dough evenly into a thin layer in the pan.  Bake a 375 degrees until just lightly browned, about 18 minutes.  When done, cool the crust in the pan before adding the filling.

To make the filling: 
Cook butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until light brown in color.  Stir often and be careful not to burn it.  The browning will take at least five minutes, maybe more.  Once browned, remove the butter to a glass measuring cup to cool slightly. 

In a medium bowl whisk sugar, eggs and salt.  Add flour and vanilla and whisk until well incorporated.  Slowly stir in browned butter until smooth.

Arrange berries on top of crust and pour filling over top.  Bake at 375 until a tester comes out clean, roughly 35 minutes or so.  Cool completely in the pan and then remove the bars for slicing using the parchment paper overhang.  After a day the bars need to be kept in the fridge.  

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