Raspberry Almond Cookie Bars

 
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I was lucky to grow up with a Czech grandmother who loved to bake. My childhood memories are embellished with her trays of kolaches (koláče in czech), a dessert bar composed of three distinct layers. The base was always buttery, and often had nuts (usually almonds). That layer was topped with a fruit filling, made with sugar and possibly lemon zest if she was feeling adventurous. The whole thing was finished with a topping of some sort: sometimes streusel, sometimes sliced almonds, and always complementary and delicious. I spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s house after school, and the smell of kolaches baking that welcomed us on more than a few lucky days holds a special place in my heart. The filling depended on what was available. My favourite was always blueberry, with its saucy, plump blueberries spilling out the sides of each square and a sugary streusel topping. I know now that traditional czech kolaches are not bars and are actually a cookie-type pastry, but the bars I grew up with will always be kolaches to me.

A few weeks ago I visited a local bakery that sold raspberry cookie bars. After trying one I couldn’t help but reminisce about the kolaches that I grew up with: the layers, fruity filling and perfectly balanced combination of nutty almonds and sweet, tart raspberries hit home. I tried to recreate it and a few attempts later I’ve created something similar, yet distinct from both the bakery's and the bars I grew up with. These bars are also something I don’t feel totally awful eating and are made with ingredients I have on hand most of the time. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!!

Raspberry Almond Cookie Bars

Makes one 8x8 inch pan of bars

Base:

-2/3 cup almond meal (this can be made by pulsing 2/3 cup almonds in a food processor until a fine meal is formed)

-1 cup dates, packed (soaked in hot water if dry)

-1/4 cup almond butter

-1 tsp vanilla

-1 tsp cinnamon

-pinch salt

Filling:

-1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries (or other berry)

-2 tbsp maple syrup

Topping:

-1 tbsp coconut oil, melted

-2 tbsp brown sugar

-3 tbsp AP flour

-2 tbsp oats

-3 tbsp slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350°F and line a 9” pan with parchment paper.

Make the base: add dates to a food processor and pulse to break up. Add other ingredients and pulse to form a relatively smooth dough. Press into the bottom of a 8x8 inch baking pan.

Make the filling: add raspberries, maple syrup and salt to a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat and pour over base.

Make the topping: melt coconut oil, then add it to a bowl with the sugar, flour and almonds. Mix to form a clumpy streusel. Spoon evenly over the raspberry filling.

Bake for 17-19 minutes until top is golden brown.

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