To everything (turn turn turn) there is a season (turn turn turn). Most have well-known names:
Winter Cruise Wear
The New Fall Television
Daffy: Duck (Bang!)*
But the one we're in now doesn't have an official name. It comes around every year like clockwork nonetheless. It's the "end the school year flurry of events where everyone is supposed to bring something" season. You've made that macaroni casserole twice already, and you still have three more parties to go. The other lady always beats you to the sign up sheet to claim the paper goods. The host is providing the drinks. Let's call it, for lack of a better name, Potluck Season. What's a mother to do?
Cherry Pie Bars
3 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 c. (4 sticks) butter, melted
2 jars (about 17 oz. each) cherry preserves
1/2 tsp. almond extract
4 1/2 c. flour
3 c. golden brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. (4 sticks) butter, softened, cut into pieces
Preheat oven to 350, and get out a large sheet pan (10x15 or 12x18)
For crust, mix flour and sugar together, then stir in the melted butter. Mix well, until the batter is no longer lumpy. Spread batter in the pan, and bake for 15 minutes, until nice and golden brown. Cool completely.
For filling, put preserves into a bowl. Add the extract, and stir with a spoon until mixture becomes smooth. It will go from being clumps of jam to a satiny, almost liquid, filling. Pour over cooled crust, and use a spatula to spread evenly, leaving about 1/4 inch around the sides.
For topping, in a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the dry ingredients together to blend. Add the butter pieces, and mix until it's all crumbly. Don't mix so much that it becomes smooth. You want a lumpy, yummy bowl of goodness.** With your hands, crumble the topping over the filling. It will seem like you have way too much topping, but as the bars cook, it will shrink quite a bit. Put the bars back into the oven, and bake for about 20 minutes, until topping is golden brown all over.
Remove from oven. Cool for at least 2 hours before serving. This will allow the bars to set completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, cut into squares, and serve. These are a bit messy (you need a plate), but so worth it!
Why these are great for Potluck Season: You can use any kind of preserves you want!!! I've made them very successfully with apricot, blackberry and blueberry jam, and the original recipe (from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook) called for raspberry. That's at least 5 parties, right there. And these are so good, you will actually get requests for them over and over again.
** I have an extremely hard time keeping my daughter from grabbing spoonfuls of topping to eat before I get it on the pan.