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Easy Homemade Cherry Pie Bars

Serves 12-16     adjust servings

These Cherry Pie Bars are a dream come true! A thick homemade shortbread crust, spread with cherry pie filling, then topped with thick pieces of more buttery shortbread! A vanilla glaze drizzled on top makes them irresistible. An easy way to serve pie when you're feeding a crowd!

Ingredients

For the shortbread

  • 2 cups (4 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 4 cups all purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt*
  • 2 (21 ounce) cans cherry pie filling

For the glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla OR almond extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 
  2. Prepare a 9x13 inch baking pan with nonstick spray or grease with butter. It's even easier if you line the pan with parchment paper, that way you can lift the bars straight out of the pan. No greasing necessary. You can line with aluminum foil too, but make sure to grease it. 
  3. In a large bowl or stand mixer, add 2 cups of softened butter. (Yes, an entire pound!) Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. 
  4. Add 1 and 1/2 cups sugar. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. The sugar should be well incorporated into the butter; be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. 
  5. Add 1/2 teaspoon almond extract and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Add 1 egg and stir to combine well, scraping the sides. 
  6. Add half of the flour but don't mix it in yet. And make sure to spoon and level it so it is not packed. 
  7. Stir 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt to the flour and stir it into the flour with a small spoon. (This is just to make sure you don't get any lumps of salt or baking powder in your dough.)
  8. Gently stir in the flour. Add the remaining 2 cups of flour (spooned and leveled) and carefully stir it in. You will probably have to switch to hand-stirring toward the end. It will feel like too much flour, but it's not! Once you get the 4th cup in, beat until all the white streaks are gone, and then stop. Do not over mix. 
  9. Add 2/3 of the dough to the prepared 9x13 inch pan. (Just eyeball it.) Press the mixture evenly into the pan and about 1/2 inch up the sides. I usually wet my hands with a smidge of water so that they don't stick to the dough too much. 
  10. For best results, refrigerate the dough in the pan for about 20 minutes. You can skip this step if you are in a hurry, but chilled shortbread going into a hot oven makes for the best texture. The remaining 1/3 of the dough needs to be covered and chilled in the fridge.
  11. Bake the crust at 375 for about 20-23 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. When it is done, lower the oven temperature to 350.
  12. Remove from the oven and spread both cans of cherry pie filling all over the top of the crust.
  13. Get your chilled dough out of the fridge. Use your hands to take medium size chunks of dough and drop them on top of the cherry pie filling. I like dough chunks that are about the size of a quarter, with some a bit bigger or smaller. See photo. 
  14. Bake the bars at 350 for about 40-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool completely. Or if you can't wait that long, at least an hour to let the pie bars set up a bit. You can cover and put in the fridge or freezer to speed it up. 
  15. In a medium bowl, add 1 cup powdered sugar. Whisk in 1-2 tablespoons milk until a glaze forms. Add a bit more milk to get the consistency you like. Whisk in 1/4 teaspoon vanilla OR if you really love the cherry-almond combo, add a 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. (I prefer vanilla.)
  16. Drizzle the glaze all over the top of the bars. Let the glaze set for about 30 minutes. Again, refrigerating or freezing speeds this up. 
  17. Cut the bars into squares and serve with vanilla ice cream! I like these cherry pie bars at room temperature, Eric likes them warmed up in the microwave. They are also delicious (and make for the nicest "bar" presentation) when they are chilled. 
  18. These bars are best served on the day you make them, or within about 24 hours. I like to store them on the counter, but after 24 hours you should put them in the fridge, where they will keep for 3-5 days.

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