Back-to-school has taken on a whole new meaning in the Currie house. With all the kids away at college, the days of after school snacks and bake sales are a thing of the past. But, the joy of baking is still alive and well in my kitchen (thank goodness for care packages). So, I decided to give my favorite back-to-school recipe a makeover and what I discovered was a game changer. All those years I made strawberry jam bars with the store bought stuff. But, little did I know, making strawberry jam from scratch is a 2-ingredient, 5-minute commitment. You can make it while the crust is baking or in advance for homemade strawberry jam bars through and through.
Toasting nuts and oats: Toasting nuts and oats before baking takes the ‘raw’ taste away with no added time or effort. Simply place in the oven (on two separate baking sheets) as it’s pre-heating. You’ll know they’re ready when you smell the toasty aroma. Cool several minutes before adding to the rest of the strawberry jam bars ingredients.
Making strawberry jam: This was a shocking discovery for me. Strawberry jam from scratch is a 2-ingredient, 5-minute commitment. Strawberries naturally contain pectin, a thickener for jam. So, getting a thick and rich strawberry jam is nothing more than fresh strawberries, sugar and water simmered for several minutes to break down the strawberries and cook with the sugar. While you’re at it, make a big batch and freeze half. It’ll last for months.
More than a snack: Try strawberry jam bars for a grab-and-g0 breakfast, or a decadent dessert with vanilla ice cream, a dollop of homemade strawberry jam and toasted almonds.
Strawberry Jam Bars with homemade strawberry jam
- ¾ cup chopped almonds (divided)
- 1 cup oats
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut up
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon almond extract
- 1 cup strawberry jam (recipe below)
- 1 pint strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
- ¾ cup sugar
- Combine strawberries and sugar in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat. The strawberries will start to break down and the sugar will dissolve. Bring to a boil and continue cooking until the jam becomes thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Spoon over jam bars and continue baking.
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Place almonds and oats on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven while it’s pre-heating. They’re toasted when you smell them, 8-10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the bars by placing all of the flour, baking powder, salt, brown sugar, butter, egg and almond extract in a food processor and pulse until crumbly. Add ½ cup of toasted almonds and the oats and continue pulsing until dough forms. Press into a 9 x 11-inch buttered and floured baking dish. Bake 15 minutes.
- Remove and spread the jam on top followed by the remaining chopped almonds. Bake 15 more minutes. Cool and cut into 2-inch squares.
Strawberry jam can be made in advance and stored in a clean jar with a tight fitting lid in the fridge. It's freezes beautifully too!