Blackberry Pepper Shortbread Bars

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1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cups sugar
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp very finely ground peppercorn blend
½ cup butter
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup blackberry or plum preserves
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
½ cup chopped toasted pecans, optional

1. Heat oven to 400* F. Grease a 13x9x2 pan.

2. Whisk together first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Add egg, milk, and vanilla; beat with wooden spoon until well blended.

3. Reserve ½ cup soft dough for topping. Spread remainder of mixture in prepared pan–this will be a very thin layer! Spread preserves evenly over dough; sprinkle chocolate chips and pecans over top. Drop reserved dough by ½ teaspoonfuls over bars.

4. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely in pan on a cooling rack. Cut into bars (about 32). Freezes well, up to 3 months.


Tips from the Chef:

The bottom layer of dough will be extremely thin. Do not double the dough recipe–just be patient. Flour or dampen you fingertips slightly to continue spreading the dough gently to fill the bottom of the pan.

Try different flavors of preserves! Apricot with almond extract and slivered almonds is quite good, as is strawberry-balsamic with white chocolate chips.