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Round these parts, the summer fruit scene has been a little crazy. Notoriously fickle peaches have been consistently juicy and flavorful, while my stand-by, blueberries, have been tiny and sour and hardly fit for a pie. Blackberries, which I had long given up on in protest of paying $4.99 for a pint of purple pebbles, have been the summer all-stars. I've been buying pint after pint of the gorgeous, giant blue-black berries. Even the local ones have measured in at an inch long or more.
I recently turned a few quarts of berries into jam. And what lovely jam they made: intensely plummy with large chunks of fruit and some errant, crunchy seeds. I love how the sturdiness of blackberries make them perfect for preserve-style jam—even after cooking, they don't break down completely.
This jam makes the perfect topping for fruit bars, which are essentially an extra thick shortbread cookie topped with toasted almonds and preserves. The special trick to these is the whipped, sweetened egg white mixture that is dolloped on top before baking. The toasted meringue-like layer adds sweetness and helps secure the jam to the bars.
Each bite is a mix of buttery crumb, toasted almonds, and sweet blackberries. I think they're awesome picnic bars, though I've been known to eat them for breakfast, too. Don't feel pressured to make your own jam—any quality preserve will do. Just look for something with visible chunks of fruit.
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