Christmas Cherry Bars

Christmas Cherry Bars are a delightful holiday treat that combines the flavors of buttery dough and sweet cherry filling. Perfect for festive gatherings or simply enjoying with loved ones during the holiday season, these bars are easy to make and sure to please any crowd.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 (21 oz) can cherry pie filling
  • Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat and Prepare: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and grease a 9×13 inch baking pan to prevent sticking.
  2. Cream Butter and Sugar: In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugar until the mixture becomes light and fluffy.
  3. Add Eggs and Extracts: Beat in the eggs one at a time, ensuring each egg is fully incorporated into the mixture. Then, stir in the vanilla and almond extracts to enhance the flavor profile.
  4. Combine Dry Ingredients: In a separate bowl, combine the all-purpose flour and salt. Gradually add this mixture to the creamed butter and sugar, stirring until well combined and forming a cohesive dough.
  5. Layer Batter and Cherry Filling: Spread 3 cups of the prepared batter into the greased baking pan. Then, evenly spread the cherry pie filling over the batter layer.
  6. Drop Remaining Batter: Using teaspoonfuls, drop the remaining batter evenly over the cherry pie filling layer, creating a marbled effect.
  7. Bake: Place the baking pan in the preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, indicating that the bars are fully baked.
  8. Cool and Serve: Once baked, remove the pan from the oven and allow the bars to cool on a wire rack. Optionally, dust the bars with powdered sugar before serving to add a touch of sweetness and festive appeal.

Tips:

  • Ensure the butter is softened to room temperature before creaming it with the sugar to achieve a light and fluffy texture.
  • Take care not to overmix the batter once the dry ingredients are added to prevent the bars from becoming tough.
  • For a decorative touch, consider garnishing the bars with sliced almonds or a drizzle of icing before serving.

Conclusion:
These Christmas Cherry Bars are a wonderful addition to any holiday dessert spread. With their tender crumb and luscious cherry filling, they’re sure to become a seasonal favorite among family and friends. Enjoy the festive flavors and cozy moments these bars bring to your holiday celebrations!

  1. Can I Use Fresh Cherries Instead of Cherry Pie Filling?
  • While using fresh cherries can be tempting, cherry pie filling is preferred for this recipe due to its thick consistency and sweet flavor. Fresh cherries may release too much liquid during baking, affecting the texture of the bars. However, if you prefer using fresh cherries, consider cooking them down with sugar and cornstarch to create a similar filling consistency before incorporating them into the bars.
  1. Can I Substitute Almond Extract with Another Flavor?
  • Almond extract adds a distinctive nutty flavor that complements the cherry filling beautifully. However, if you don’t have almond extract on hand or prefer a different flavor, you can substitute it with another extract such as lemon, orange, or even rum extract for a different twist. Keep in mind that the flavor profile of the bars will vary based on the extract used, so adjust the quantity according to your taste preferences.
  1. How Should I Store Christmas Cherry Bars?
  • To keep your Christmas Cherry Bars fresh and flavorful, store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2-3 days. If you live in a warm or humid climate, you may want to store them in the refrigerator to prevent the cherry filling from becoming too soft. For longer storage, you can freeze the bars in a freezer-safe container or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil for up to 1-2 months. Thaw frozen bars in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
  1. Can I Make Christmas Cherry Bars Ahead of Time?
  • Yes, you can certainly prepare Christmas Cherry Bars ahead of time to save time during the holiday rush. You can make the bars a day in advance and store them in an airtight container at room temperature. Alternatively, you can prepare the dough and cherry filling separately, then assemble and bake the bars on the day you plan to serve them. If you choose to make the bars ahead of time, hold off on dusting them with powdered sugar until just before serving to maintain their freshness and appearance.
  1. Can I Use a Different Fruit Filling Instead of Cherry?
  • Absolutely! While cherry pie filling is traditional for this recipe, you can experiment with different fruit fillings to suit your taste preferences or accommodate dietary restrictions. Blueberry, raspberry, apple, or peach pie filling are all excellent alternatives that pair well with the buttery dough. Just make sure to adjust the baking time accordingly, as the moisture content and thickness of the filling may vary between different fruit options.
  1. Can I Reduce the Amount of Sugar in the Recipe?
  • The amount of sugar in this recipe contributes to the sweetness and texture of the bars. However, if you prefer your desserts less sweet or are looking to reduce your sugar intake, you can experiment with reducing the sugar by 1/4 to 1/2 cup without significantly affecting the overall outcome. Keep in mind that altering the sugar content may slightly change the texture and flavor of the bars, so it’s best to make gradual adjustments and taste as you go.
  1. How Do I Know When the Bars Are Done Baking?
  • The bars are ready when a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, indicating that the dough is fully baked and set. Keep an eye on the bars towards the end of the baking time, as oven temperatures may vary. If the bars are browning too quickly on the edges but the center is still undercooked, you can loosely tent the pan with aluminum foil to prevent over-browning while allowing the center to finish baking.
  1. Can I Make Christmas Cherry Bars Gluten-Free?
  • Yes, you can make gluten-free Christmas Cherry Bars by substituting the all-purpose flour with a gluten-free flour blend. Look for a gluten-free flour blend specifically formulated for baking, as it typically contains a combination of rice flour, tapioca flour, and potato starch. You may need to adjust the amount of flour or add a binder such as xanthan gum to ensure the bars maintain their structure and texture. Additionally, make sure that the other ingredients, such as the vanilla extract and cherry pie filling, are also gluten-free to accommodate dietary restrictions.
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