Cherry Crumb Bars are filled with an easy, stove top cherry pie filling. A tender cookie crust serves as the base of the bar. Then, almond flour is added to reserved dough from the crust and scattered like cobblestones over the pie filling. Once they’re baked and golden, cut them up into easy to eat bars. They’re like portable slices of cherry pie!
I had originally planned this post for February…you know, right around the whole President’s Day time frame. It’s always a good time to add something to my cherry recipe arsenal.
One of the first recipes I posted that involved cherries was this Apricot Cherry Slab Pie. Slab pies are so delicious. They’re a great pie to serve to a crowd because they’re so easy to slice up. I like to think of them as a giant pop tart. Delicious!
Granted, most of us aren’t serving crowds these days, but there’s nothing that says that you can’t make a smaller slab. My Lemon Lime Cream Slab Pie is simply a tart recipe that was doubled. It’s easy enough to cut it back in half.
Then I made a Sugar Cookie Cherry Cobbler. I’m definitely a biscuit cobbler kind of girl, but the sugar cookie spin on it was fun and everyone loved it.
The cherry sauce is really easy to make. And, you can use fresh cherries or frozen cherries. I love a fresh cherry, but I have to tell you…the ease of frozen cherries that don’t need pitting is a bonus! And it makes just as delicious of a sauce.
So, I wanted to make Cherry Crumb Bars using that sauce as the base for a pie-like filling. I wanted to be generous with the filling. I didn’t want a small ribbon of cherry running through my bar; I wanted something more substantial.
You’ll need to make the filling before you begin the recipe, so let’s start there.
How to Make Stove Top Cherry Pie Filling
Don’t let this extra step dissuade you. Making cherry pie filling on the stove top is quite easy. It all happens in one pot, and if you use frozen cherries, the process is even easier.
I used frozen sweet pitted cherries. The cherries I bought were whole. Whole cherries would be a bit too bulky for the bar. So, I quickly sliced them (while frozen) in half and tossed them right into the saucepan along with sugar, lemon zest and salt.
Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for 1-2 minutes. As they cook, they turn such an amazing color! I love that deep rich cherry red. Beautiful!
As they cook, the cherries will give up a lot of liquid. Remove some of that juice and mix it up with some cornstarch.
Add the cornstarch mixture back to the saucepan and stir well. Bring it back to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally.
You’ll know it’s done when it’s thick enough to scrape the bottom of the pan and leave a trail. This happens quickly. Don’t overcook it or your mixture will become too thick and you’ll dry it out.
We need this mixture to cool, so let’s get it out of that hot pan and into a heat proof bowl. That will speed things up while we make the crust.
What can I use if I don’t want to make the pie filling from scratch?
I’m going to maintain that making that filling from scratch is the best move, but I can appreciate a shortcut just as much as the next person. So…
- Yes. You can use canned pie filling. I’m not a huge fan, especially of canned cherry pie filling. So, I can’t recommend one for you. But, here’s a link that compares four brands that might lead you to the one you’ll like best.
- You can also use jam. (Do not use jelly as it will simply melt during baking.) This is a fun substitute because there are so many different flavors available… apricot, raspberry, blackberry, strawberry and more. I would start with about a cup and go from there. You don’t want to go crazy and add too much. You can see from the photos in this post that I had a generous layer, maybe just under 1/2″.
Making the Crust for Cherry Crumb Bars
While the pie filling is cooling, make the crust.
The crust mixes up like a typical cookie dough. Beat the butter with the sugar, add eggs and flavorings and then end by mixing in the dry ingredients.
I added almond and vanilla flavorings. Almond is a classic pairing with cherry and it smells so good when it’s baking!
You’ll end up with a soft dough. Now, before you proceed, remove about 3/4 cup of that dough and set it aside to use for the topping.
Tips for pressing the crust into the pan
- The first tip is to drop big spoonfuls of dough all over the bottom of the pan. You’re going to have to press the dough into an even layer, so you might as well give yourself a head start. It will be faster to get to “even” if you’re not starting with a giant hunk of dough in the middle of your pan.
- Use plastic wrap to press the dough. Yes, you use your bare hands to do this. But, if you take a sheet of plastic wrap to press it in, it’s a much cleaner and less sticky affair. Just place the sheet over the dough, picking up and moving the plastic wrap around the pan until you’ve got a nice even layer.
- Remember that you don’t need to press any crust up the side of the pan. Just press it into the bottom.
Parbake the crust
Before we top the crust with our luscious cherry pie filling, we’re going to parbake it. That means we’re going to give it a quick bake before we proceed with the rest of the recipe. “Par” bake simply means “partially” bake.
This gives the crust time to set up a bit before we cover it with something juicy. I do the same thing with my Raspberry White Chocolate Almond Blondies. You’ll often “parbake” graham cracker crusts as well.
Once the crust comes out of the oven, it has to cool. Then, top it with the cooled cherry pie filling.
Making the crumb topping
I’m going to confess right here that this isn’t a crumb topping in the uber traditional sense. It’s not really super crumbly like my Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake type of crumb topping.
I didn’t want it to be the exact same texture as the crust, so I took the reserved crust dough and mixed in almond flour. This is an easy way to leverage the dough you’ve already made while still giving the topping a little of its own personality.
So, it’s not as crumbly of a topping as it is sort of cobblestone-y.
Go ahead and drop small spoonfuls of the crumb topping mixture all over the cooled crust. Then, top with some slivered almonds just to hit that whole almond cherry flavor combo home.
Topping the topping
After baking and cooling, cut into bars. Now, you can serve them as is… or, give them a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.
I am a sucker for crumb topping dusted with confectioner’s sugar. I don’t think this bar needs the extra sweetness, but that dusting of white on that cobblestone top always makes me smile.
When you’re done, you’ll have lovely Cherry Crumb Bars, filled with delicious homemade cherry pie filling, a tender crust, and cobblestone “crumb” topping.
The hint of almond flavor may remind you of Christmas, but you’ll be quite happy to be enjoying this bar any month of the year.
That’s quite a relief, since, it kind of seems like May is the new February ;)