Strawberry Shortcake Bars
If baked goods have a season, bars are absolutely the darlings of summer. Like flip-flops, beach wraps, and floppy hats, they have a casual, sunny vibe. They’re effortless to throw together, but everyone loves them, and they’re kind of perfect for every meal — breakfast, snack, dessert.
These bars are even more summery because they’re piled high with perfectly ripe June strawberries! We made them to mimic everything we love about strawberry shortcake. The base is a shortbread made with orange zest and vanilla — and slathered with strawberry jam. We love how it smells in the oven, and how the jam thickens, forming a sticky, sweet-tart layer on the buttery shortbread. (It’s like a super luxe, open-face Pop Tart). For the topping, we beat together heavy cream and crème fraîche. It’s as fluffy as can be, rich and wonderfully tangy, and it spreads like a dream. It looks very, very pretty with the strawberries and a single, perfect basil leaf.
The awesome thing about bars, of course, is that you can cut them as big or as small as you like. This recipe might yield 24 mini bars, or it might yield one great big bar. We will not judge.
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
5 Tbsp granulated sugar, divided
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp kosher salt
½ Tbsp orange zest
2 tsp vanilla extract, divided
2 Tbsp whole milk
½ cup strawberry jam
1 cup heavy cream
7 ½ oz crème fraîche
1 lb strawberries, stemmed and sliced
Gelson’s organic fresh basil, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking pan measuring 9 x 13 inches with parchment paper.
To make the shortbread crust: In a medium bowl, mix the butter and 2 tablespoons of sugar until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter.
Add the flour, baking powder, salt, orange zest, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and milk. Stir until the ingredients are well incorporated, and the dough starts to form a ball in the bowl.
Place pieces of the dough into the bottom of the pan and press the dough with your hands, spreading it into a thin, even layer and forming a shortbread crust.
Spread the strawberry jam on top of the shortbread in an even layer.
Bake for 14 to 17 minutes, or until the shortbread is set and starting to brown around the edges. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the shortbread to cool to room temperature.
While the shortbread bakes, make the topping: In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the cream, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla until firm peaks form. Add the crème fraîche into the whipped cream a little bit at a time, mixing until each addition is completely incorporated. Chill the topping in the refrigerator until you need it.
In a medium bowl, combine the strawberries with the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Stir until combined and set aside in the refrigerator.
When the shortbread is fully cooled, spread the whipped cream mixture over the jam layer, fully covering it. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until the whipped cream mixture is set.
Slice the shortbread into 12 bars, garnishing each one with a spoonful of strawberries and a basil leaf. The bars can be enjoyed immediately or kept, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.