Happy Sunday! I’m going to open with a smallish rant as I’m currently laid up with an injured knee which has most inconveniently interfered with my past week and threatens to put a quite a damper on my upcoming plans.
Here goes… If you are walking your dog on the river trail in my town, or your town, or any trail, street, or pathway in any town, and there is a leash law, please know it actually does apply to you and your dog as much as it does me and my dogs and there are actual reasons for said law. Oh, your dog is the sweetest, smartest, best-behaved pet that ever lived and always listens and comes when called? Congratulations, but it still applies. Because here’s the thing, there are actually other people and dogs in the mix. Some of those people might be on bicycles and a wandering dog can make for a perilous or at least nerve-wracking situation for the cyclist (In case you don’t know me, this is not how I hurt my knee, I’m no cyclist – and I’ll save that rant for another day 😂). Others may be truly terrified of your dog, cuddly and cute as he is, or have small children who are fearful (or just easily knocked over). We encountered the sweetest little neighbor girl recently who was afraid to cross the street until I assured her and her mom that my leashed labradors and I would stay put until they were at a safe distance. As dog lovers, we may not understand the fear, but we can respect it. And, lastly, the real reason for my rant, dogs that are on leashes often act out and run backward popping their owner’s knee when approached by an off-leash dog that’s running at them. It was an accident, yes, but frankly, one that was waiting to happen. I won’t pretend I’ve never been a guilty party (although in less traveled areas) so this is a reminder to myself as well. I’ll step off my soapbox now and get on to the good stuff.
I’m making the best of what I’d hoped to be a highly productive day by bringing you instructions for delicious strawberry pie bars. So it will still be productive, just in a couch potato kind of way. I’ve also discovered the Cozi app so I’m keeping busy making lists for my family members to complete. They feel bad for me because my valiant effort to play in a golf tournament with them yesterday (thinking my knee was better) ended with my screeching in pain at the ninth hole. It was very dramatic – thank goodness they were the only witnesses. To be clear, I’m no golfer either so I had no business being out there on a good day, much less with an injury.
I should warn you, there are a few different stages to making these strawberry pie bars so they don’t exactly fall into the “quick and easy” category. They are, however, relatively simple if you follow instructions and plan your time accordingly. Most importantly, the end result provides major satisfaction. They are perfect for a large gathering, potluck, bbq, block party, camping trip, etc., as they travel well and don’t require anything more than a napkin to eat them. Of course, you may omit the chocolate chips and the vanilla bean but I really like the flavors they add with the strawberries. You can find vanilla beans at most grocery stores these days, I buy mine at Costco. If you haven’t had pie bars before (or even if you have), you are in for a treat!
Strawberry Pie Bars with dark chocolate
(Makes about 18 bars)
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 cup water
1 cup strawberries, crushed/pureed (the riper, the better)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups butter, chilled and sliced
1 vanilla bean (optional)
4 cups strawberries, sliced
1 cup dark chocolate chips or chunks (I use Ghiradelli buttons)
*The Strawberry Filling may be made up to a week ahead of time and refrigerated.
make the filling
Rinse and stem strawberries then crush or puree enough to yield one cup. (I’m using a muddler – worked great).
In a large saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch with a wire whisk until fully combined.
Slowly, to avoid clumps, stir in water then strawberries and place over medium heat, stirring often until the sugar is dissolved.
Increase heat to medium/high and bring to a boil. Allow the mixture to boil until it thickens, with all that cornstarch, this should only take about 5 minutes, maybe less.
It should be thick enough to easily coat a spoon without slipping off.
Transfer the filling into a mason jar or other heat-proof glass container. Allow it to cool completely while you prepare the crust. It will get pretty thick, similar to jam, as it cools. It may be made up to a week ahead of time and kept refrigerated.
make the crust
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
In the work-bowl of a food processor or a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. If you are using a vanilla bean, split it down the middle with a small, sharp knife then scrape out the seeds with a small spoon or flat knife. Add the seeds to the flour mixture and pulse with the food processor or whisk briskly until well combined.
Chop cold butter (you want to keep it chilled up to this point) and add it to your work bowl. Add half (3/4 cup) the butter and pulse in the food processor or blend with pastry cutter until well combined then add the remaining half of the butter and repeat.
The mixture should be crumbly but easily moldable when pressed in the pan.
Divide the crust mixture in half and reserve one half in the refrigerator to use as a topping.
Press the remaining half of the crust mixture into a 9-inch x 13-inch Pyrex baking pan to completely cover the bottom and come up the sides just slightly.
Bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown at the edges. Allow to cool while you prepare the next layer. (Leave the oven on, you’ll need it again soon.)
Wash, stem, and slice strawberries.
In a large bowl, combine the berries with the strawberry filling, stirring gently.
Spread the mixture evenly over the baked crust.
Stir the chocolate chips/chunks in with the remaining crust to make the topping.
Spread the topping evenly over the strawberry layer.
Bake at 350 degrees F for another 30 – 40 minutes. The strawberry filling should be bubbling and the topping should be turning golden brown.
Allow the bars to cool completely before cutting them into squares. In fact, I recommend refrigerating them until they are chilled and quite firm, then slice them with a hot knife to cut through the cold chocolate. They will hold together better and, in my opinion, the flavor is improved. Keep refrigerated while waiting to serve.