This bar is not all about jam. It’s the great balance of flavours and textures that elevates this simple bake to the next level. Crumbly, short, with tart jam cutting across the sweetness of meringue and the richness of chocolate layer. Earthy and lightly spiced oat-y brown sugar topping rounds it up nicely to create a well balanced and not too sweet jam bar.
The trick here is simple: prepare - bake - enjoy - repeat.
For a good bake:
Flour - use weak/low protein flour in this bake. My mum used to make these bars using cake flour (in Poland the name of the flour is ‘Krupczatka’ - super fine wheat flour). However, you can bake these bars using self-raising flour too. If you decide to go with cake or plain (all-purpose) flour - mix it with 1 tsp baking powder (all included in the recipe below).
Preparing shortbread dough - grate cold butter into flour and using palms of your hands and finger tips work butter into flour until fine/crumbly texture is formed. Try to be swift at it. Add egg yolks/sugar/salt/vanilla bean paste and bring everything together - it will take you about 1 minute of gentle kneading to create cohesive dough. It won’t be fully smooth and that’s ok. Try not to over-work it. Once you have the dough ready, you will divide it into 2/3rd (buttery/yellow dough) and 1/3rd which will be used to create chocolate layer.
In this bake, chocolate shortbread cuts through the sweetness of the bar. It will elevate your regular jam bars onto the next level. In terms of baking - once you have yellow dough prepared, take 1/3rd and add Dutch Cocoa. You will need to crumble it up again and work Dutch Cocoa in (1 minute job). When done, refrigerate until ready to use.
Jam - use your favourite jam here. You will be happy if you choose sweet/tart seedless type of jam to compliment textures and flavours of this bar. Apricot, blackcurrant (my fav!), smooth raspberry, plum or fig jam - all work very well in this bar. Mix jam with lemon juice, rum and salt to bring flavour balance to this layer.
Meringue - leftover egg whites from the shortbread layer are used for meringue. In this bake meringue is not puffy - it acts as a gel between the layers, creates volume, adds crispiness to the bar and balances flavours and textures. For a good bake - make sure your bowl is dry and clean (no fat residue - as egg whites won’t whip well). Whip up egg whites first (until fluffy) and then start adding confectioners’ sugar (1-2Tbsp at a time). It will take about 4-5 minutes to incorporate sugar fully.
Brown sugar oat topping - adds lovely crunch, coarse texture and earthy aroma to the bar. Use traditional, big rolled oats. You will work cold butter into flour then add oats, cinnamon, pinch of salt, brown sugar and work it in until crumbly texture is formed. Freeze the topping until ready to use.
Assembling - this jam bar is prepared in layers. If you haven’t made your jam bars like this you will need to take a leap of hope. Grate the base onto parchment paper. It will create delicate, short and crumbly base layer. If you want the base to be thicker and firmer - you may opt to split the dough in pieces and press in (same as for cheesecake base, even out using Tablespoon). Blind bake the base and spread jam layer on hot base.
Then cover jam layer with chocolate shortbread. When done, place meringue on top and even out - some of the chocolate dough will mix in with meringue and that’s ok.
Grate the remaining part of the yellow dough on top of the meringue and cover everything with frozen brown sugar oat topping. Bake.
Jam Bars Recipe
Yield: 20-24 bars
Time: 45min prep + 40-45min baking
450g self raising flour OR plain (all-purpose)/cake flour + 1 tsp baking powder
227g unsalted butter, cold
25g (2 Tbsp) confectioners’ (icing) sugar
1/5 tsp table salt
3 egg yolks from large eggs (you will use egg whites for the meringue)
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
+ 2 Tbsp (16g) Dutch Cocoa
Brown Sugar Oat Topping:
50g plain (all-purpose) or cake flour
60g unsalted butter, cold
50g traditional rolled oats (big and chunky)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
70g light brown sugar
400g tart/sweet jam - apricot/blackberry/sour cherry/raspberry/plum/fig
15ml clear lemon juice
1/5 tsp table salt
3 egg whites leftover
120g confectioners’ (icing) sugar
1/2 tsp clear lemon juice
1. Prepare shortbread: Place flour in your main mixing bowl (if you are using plain flour or cake flour - add 1 tsp baking powder and whisk it in to combine). Grate cold (or frozen) butter and using palms of your hands and finger tips work butter into flour until fine, crumbly texture is formed. Then add confectioners’ (icing sugar), table salt and whisk in briefly. Add egg yolks, vanilla bean paste and knead gently to bring the dough together (it will take about 1 minute to create cohesive dough). Divide the dough into 2/3rd (buttery/yellow) and 1/3rd (this will be your chocolate layer). Add 2 Tbsp Dutch Cocoa to 1/3rd of the dough (you can turn it into crumbs again and add Cocoa) and knead until Cocoa is incorporated. Wrap each dough piece in cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour (and up to 24 hours).
2. Prepare brown sugar oat topping: Grate cold butter into flour and work it in to form crumbly/fine texture. Add oats, cinnamon, pinch of salt, brown sugar - mix everything together and then work it in until crumbly topping is formed. Freeze until ready to use.
3. Blind bake the base: When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan forced). Line baking tin with parchment paper. Take yellow dough out of the fridge and cut 1/4th - refrigerate (you will use it later on - it will go on top of the meringue layer). Grate the remaining part of chilled dough onto the parchment paper - this will from the base of jam bar. I’m grating the dough as it will create delicate and short base. If you want firm/thicker base - cut the dough into smaller pieces and press it in like for cheesecake base (even out using tablespoon). Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown.
4. Prepare jam layer: Mix jam with lemon juice, rum and table salt. Set aside.
5. Assemble: When the base is baking, grate the rest of the yellow dough (set aside) and chocolate dough (set aside). Then, prepare meringue. Place egg whites in the bowl and mix (whisk attachment or handheld mixer) on medium speed for 1 minute. When whites are fluffy start adding confectioners’ sugar - 1-2 Tablespoons at a time. It will take about 5 minutes to whip up meringue. At the end, add lemon juice and mix until incorporated. When the base is baked (don’t switch off the oven, increase the temperature to 200C/180C fan forced) - delicately spread jam on top of warm shortbread base (if it becomes a bit messy - don’t worry - it will bake into the base again). Sprinkle chocolate layer on top of the jam. Cover chocolate layer with meringue and spread it out (meringue will mix in slightly with chocolate shortbread and that’s OK). Sprinkle leftover yellow dough on top of meringue and then cover everything with frozen brown sugar oat topping.
6. Bake at 200C (180C fan forced) for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 180C (160C fan forced) and bake for another 20-25 minutes. When baked, let your jam bars cool in the tin for 30 minutes (to crisp up and set) before serving.