Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Blackberry Pie Bars
I suffer from a very unfortunate affliction known as secondhand embarrassment.
I can usually pinpoint when it will occur. For example, I know I'll cringe while watching the awkward antics of characters on Girls or The Office. I always feel it when I walk into the office bathroom and someone is pooping and goes dead silent in their stall until I hastily leave. When I'm stone-cold sober, and people around me are drunk and actin' a fool, the secondhand embarrassment is brutal.
You guys probably feel secondhand embarrassment all the time when you read the weird stuff I write here.
This quality isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'm an empathetic person (humble-brag?), and feeling shame on behalf of others just goes with the territory.
Last Friday, I discovered a new situation where I feel a horrific level of vicarious embarrassment.
I was grabbing dinner at a bar in Arlington with my boyfriend*, and halfway through my french dip, I noticed something on my plate that was very out of place...
...because it had wings. That's right, nestled underneath my waffle fries, there was a greasy, crispy, deep-fried house fly.
Sidebar: I don't think I've ever mentioned here that I'm deathly afraid of bugs. A few years ago, I slept on my couch for a whole week because there was a spider near my bed that I was too afraid to kill (I finally killed it in a valiant battle involving a bottle of Windex and a giant wad of paper towels.) When I was five, my parents allowed me to watch Arachnophobia for some bizarre reason, and I'm convinced that it's the reason I've spent the past 24 years petrified of all insects. I don't even want a butterfly near me. Those bitches are creepy.
Anyway, I don't know whether it's my irrational fear of bugs, or the fact that finding a fly on one's plate is just plain gross, but I obviously lost interest in finishing my french dip. My disgust quickly devolved into a case of preemptive secondhand embarrassment for what our waitress was about to endure. I've been a waitress. I once waited on a table that found the finger of a latex glove in their chicken wrap, and was absolutely MORTIFIED even though I didn't make their wrap and had nothing to do with it.
Obviously our horrified waitress apologized profusely, whisked away the offending plate, and removed my food and beer from the bill. If only I'd had the foresight to pound half a dozen Miller Lights prior to finding the fly...
As is the case with most of the stories that precede my recipes, the fly incident has absolutely nothing to do with these blackberry pie bars.
These bars may be the best dessert I've made all year. They have a shortbread crust, an amazing blackberry and lemon filling, and a shortbread crumb topping. Those of you following me on Instagram probably saw that I brought them to a party a couple weeks ago, and it was extremely hard to avoid eating them all before I even left.
*Look at me just trying to slip in that little detail! So you know how I've barely posted for the last few months? Uhhh...now you know why. My evenings and weekends have been quite busy.
Here's what you'll need for about 20 bars:
For the crust and topping:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
Zest of half a lemon
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold
For the filling:
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups fresh blackberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch pan with heavy duty foil, and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest (from the list of crust ingredients only). Cut the cold butter into small cubes, and cut into the dry ingredients using a pastry blenderuntil only small pieces of butter remain and the mixture is crumbly.
Set aside 3/4 cup of the mixture for topping the bars. Add the rest of the mixture to the prepared pan, and firmly press into the bottom creating an even layer of crust. Bake 12-15 minutes, until light golden. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before proceeding.
In a medium bowl, make the filling. Combine the eggs, sugar, sour cream, flour, salt, lemon juice, and vanilla, and whisk until smooth. Gently stir in the blackberries with a spatula. Pour the filling mixture over the cooled crust in the baking pan. Evenly crumble the reserved topping mixture over the filling.
Bake until the top is beginning to brown and the filling is set, 45-50 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack before chilling and slicing into bars.
Adapted from The Pastry Queen: Royally Good Recipes from the Texas Hill Country's Rather Sweet Bakery & Cafe via Annie's Eats
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