The brown butter for these bars smells so good, you might be tempted to stick your finger in the (cooled) saucepan and start slurping it down. The same reflex goes for the batter, after you’ve whisked the butter into the bowl and stirred in all the browned bits of flavor. But wait, it gets better. Dark, juicy cherries sit smack in the middle of a vanilla-scented crust and filling. Sound tempting yet?
I’d been waiting for an opportunity to make these when a bag of cherries magically arrived in my CSA box this week. And I’m not sure I can even eloquently explain how magical they are. They’re also perfect for any bbq’s, beach days nights at the Hollywood Bowl (where I’ll be taking them next week), or any event that requires food to be transported. They’re super cute, stack well, and will be gushed over by all who try them. I promise you that.
Cherry Brown Butter Squares
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen, via Bon Appetit
Makes 16 2-inch square bars
It might seem like you won’t have enough crust, but just work it gently with your fingers and it will spread to cover the entire pan. Since I don’t own a cherry pitter, my pairing knife and I got to know each other a little better this weekend. A pitter would be useful, but is certainly not mandatory for stellar results.
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
1 pound sweet cherries, which will yield 12 ounces of pitted cherries, which yielded some leftovers, perfect for snacking (alternately, you can use 12 ounces of the berry of your choice)
Make crust: Preheat over to 375°F. Cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper and trim each to fit the 8-inch width of an 8×8-inch square baking pan. Press it into the bottom and sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, perpendicular to the first sheet. (I used foil.)
Using rubber spatula or fork, mix melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl. Add flour and salt and stir until incorporated. Transfer dough to your prepared pan, and use your fingertips to press the dough evenly across the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust until golden, about 18 minutes (it will puff slightly while baking). Transfer crust to rack and cool in pan. Maintain oven temperature.
Make the filling: Cook butter in heavy small saucepan (a lighter-colored one will make it easier to see the color changing, which happens quickly) over medium heat until deep nutty brown (do not burn), stirring often and watching carefully, about six minutes. Immediately pour browned butter into glass measuring cup to cool slightly.
Whisk sugar, eggs, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add flour and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk browned butter into sugar-egg mixture; whisk until well blended.
Arrange pitted cherries, or the berries of your choice, in bottom of cooled crust. Carefully pour browned butter mixture evenly over the fruit. Bake bars until filling is puffed and golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool bars completely in pan on rack.
Use the parchment paper overhang to carefully remove cooled bars from pan and place them on a cutting board and cut them into squares with a very sharp knife.