The Kriek is on Fleek: Kriek Crumble Bars

When I saw sour cherries at the farmer's market a few weeks ago, I immediately bought a quart because I already had a particular recipe in mind. Mindy Segal's cookbook Cookie Love includes a recipe for "Kriek Crumble Bars" that I added to my to-bake list as soon as I saw it. I love sour cherries, and the beautiful full-page photo of the bars sucked me in.

Kriek lambic is a fruit beer made with tart Morello cherries. These bars have a shortbread base, a jammy filling made with fresh tart cherries and kriek, and an oatmeal streusel topping. You have to make the filling first, since it needs to set up in fridge before you assemble the bars. You start by macerating pitted sour cherries with kriek and honey at room temperature for at least four hours. You set aside a bit of the juice and cook the remaining cherry mixture until most of the liquid has evaporated and turned into a syrup. You whisk some tapioca flour (I used ground instant tapioca) into the reserved juice, incorporate the tapioca mixture into the rest of the fruit, and cook until thickened. Then you chill the filling for at least two hours.

The shortbread base for the bars is a mixture of cold butter, sugar, flour, and salt. You pat the dough into a parchment-lined pan and bake until lightly golden. You cool the crust, spread on the cherry filling, and sprinkle over a generous amount of oatmeal streusel (a mixture of cold butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, salt, and vanilla bean seeds that has been run through the food processor and completely chilled). You bake the bars, and then cool and chill them before cutting.
The bars cut cleanly and looked lovely with the glistening ruby layer of cherry filling. I thought these bars were fabulous. Each layer was so flavorful: buttery shortbread, intense cherry jam, and decadent streusel. I was pleasantly surprised at the strong oatmeal flavor in the streusel -- I thought the oatmeal might fade into the background since you grind the oats in a food processor. But the oatmeal flavor was at the forefront and gave these bars a warm nutty flavor.

Segal says you can use fresh or frozen tart cherries, and you can even use Bing cherries for a sweeter result. I would absolutely make these bars again and wouldn't change a thing.

Recipe: "Kriek Crumble Bars" from Cookie Love by Mindy Segal.