Stepping out with blackberry macaroon bars

After riding the coattails of my fellow bloggers this last little while, I'm finally stepping out on my own once again with a veritable Casual Baker creation. (That's not to say that I wasn't inspired along the way.)

So where does one get the hankering for a Blackberry Macaroon Bar?

Several months ago, R. and I set out for a strip of guitar stores in the heart of Montmartre in search of his birthday present. A wee bit peckish after all that guitar testing (R.) and devising a use for that oh so pretty pink Hello Kitty chick guitar in the window (me), we stopped in at a boulangerie with a tempting display.

We picked a sweet that caught our eye, ordered it by the name on the little card alongside the platter, and unwrapped our package in a park one block later only to find something else entirely. A blessing in disguise, we concluded after our first bite. The start of a long and indulgent friendship, we hoped.

Twice since we've returned expectantly to the same boulangerie, and twice we've left empty-mouthed.

This attempt at re-creating a blackberry version of the bar (the original was raspberry) was a bit off (like 3x too thick kind of off), but a tasty failure worth sharing anyways. A lemon shortbread base and a coconut and almond macaroon topping sandwich a thick layer of blackberry jam, compliments of the Berry Street Jam & Jelly Co. (aka my parents). They take orders.

Blackberry Macaroon Bars

Lemon Shortbread Base:

3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup ground almonds
lemon zest (to taste)

Macaroon Topping:

1 egg
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 tablespoon flour

Blackberry jam (as much as you're willing to part with!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

To prepare the shortbread base, combine the butter and sugar in a small bowl. Add the lemon juice and zest and mix until smooth. Add the flour and ground almonds. Blend with a pastry blender or fork, then your hands, until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Press into the bottom of the prepared loaf pan. Prick with a fork and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden.

In the meantime, prepare the macaroon topping. In a small bowl, beat the egg. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until the mixture begins to thicken. Carefully stir in the coconut, sliced almonds and flour.

Once the shortbread base is baked, remove it from the oven and reduce the temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread a generous layer of blackberry jam on top of the base. Cover with the macaroon mixture.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre produces sticky (but not liquid) crumbs.

Notes: Next time, I will use the same amount of shortbread base and macaroon topping, but spread over an 8" square pan, all while maintaining a solid 1/4"-1/2" layer of jam in the middle. Proportion is crucial, people.