I don’t know if y’all know this, but I grew up in the woods. And when I say the woods, I mean no-fire-department, just-got-9-1-1-service-a-few-years-ago, walk-around-barefoot, fish-in-the-lake-across-the-road woods.
My parents’ house is at least 30 minutes from almost anything, surrounded by Piney Woods and some less-than-savory characters. For some city folks, being that removed from civilization may sound like torture, but for me it meant that I grew up relying on my books and imagination for entertainment rather than, you know, other people or activities.
My brother and I would walk across our little tar road to the “lake” (really just kind of a big pond) to fish for three-eyed little guppy-fish, search for turtle shells and birds nests in the thicket across from the house or pick dewberries (wild blackberries) from the huge bush that grew around a big oak tree down at the turnaround. It was easy to imagine that I was Laura Ingalls from the Big Woods or scrounging for survival like in Hatchet. When we came home with our bounty of berries, smeared with juice and scratched up from brambles, we’d enjoy them like cereal – in a big bowl of cold milk with a little bit of sugar sprinkled on top. Daddy would tell us stories about doing the same thing when he was a little boy, a county over, and how sick he’d get when he ate more berries than he brought home to Grammy and his siblings.
Now, whenever I enjoy a dessert studded through with glistening blackberries, I drift back to those happy summer days of my childhood. Maybe we only berry-picked a few times, but the taste of those fresh little jewels imprinted that memory deep in my mind. I got to reminisce this weekend when I made Blackberry-Peach Shortbread Bars for our weekly Sunday meal with our neighbor, Keri. It was very homey, enjoying my grownup life while thinking about memories of my childhood.
These are deliciously dense bars, lightly spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg and a little extra sweetness from the brown sugar. I used both almond and vanilla extracts to get an extra bake-y flavor that melted into the natural syrupy texture of the baked peach and blackberries. They’re just sweet enough to satiate your sweet tooth without overwhelming your palette, while remaining fresh from the fruit and filling because of the shortbread base. These bars are delicious fresh out of the oven or chilled in the fridge for an extra dense texture. For an extra special treat, enjoy them topped with vanilla ice cream for a cobbler-esque dessert.
Peach-Blackberry Shortbread Bars
- 1½ cup flour
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup cold butter (1 stick), cut into small pieces
- 1 large egg
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 1 peach, pitted and thinly sliced
- 1 cup frozen or fresh blackberries
- Preheat oven to 375° F. Spray an 8″x8″ pan with non-stick baking spray and set aside.
- Mix together flour, sugars, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl.
- Add butter pieces to flour mixture and use your hands or a pastry cutter to crumble together until the dough forms small pieces. Stir egg and extracts into the dough until well-combined.
- Press ¾ of the dough into your pan, setting the rest of the dough aside. Add peach slices and blackberries to the pan, then top with the remaining dough.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, over until top is golden brown. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars. Store leftovers in refrigerator.
Based on a recipe from Everybody Likes Sandwiches