Layered Almond Shortbread Bars

These layered almond shortbread bars have buttery, crumbly shortbread, an almond paste filling, and any jam you want (I like sweet/tart raspberry).

I made these layered almond shortbread bars a couple of years ago. They were delicious, but I remember them being time-consuming (but looking back at the recipe, I don’t know why). Mom has been requesting these for quite a while, so I caved for Mother’s Day.

I mixed the shortbread by hand because the idea of washing a food processor, even in the midst of procrastination, is not my idea of a good time. I used a fork and knife, but a pastry blender would work even better. It’s very similar to making a scone or biscuit dough (if you haven’t made either, you should, because they are delicious), but with no milk or cream or buttermilk at the end. I’d suggest using butter that has been sitting at room temperature so that it’s soft enough to mix in, and then pop the shortbread dough in the fridge for a bit so that the butter can re-firm up.

Don’t worry if your dough doesn’t come together. Mine was very crumbly, and it seemed as if there was a lot of plain flour lying around. As long as the dough clumps when you press a bit of it together, you’re golden.

The filling was a pain in the butt. I realized I needed 10 oz of almond paste right before I was about to pop the shortbread into the oven, and I only have 7 oz. Plus, I was the only one in the house, so no one else could run out for me. Sigh. I turned off the oven and went to get more almond paste (the lines were super long, maybe due to Mother’s Day; also, I feel lucky, because I nabbed the last tube).

And I was trying to make the paste all crumbly, which is hard to do because the paste is attracted to each other and they don’t like to become dry and crumbly and ugh. I just started on the sugar, hoping that it would help dry out the paste and break it up. It sort of worked. I was too lazy to cut up the butter, so I didn’t. I dumped in the rest of a bottle of vanilla; there was more than I thought, and it smelled a tad boozy. Oops. The resulting filling was pretty smooth, though there were a few lumps of almond paste here and there. Oh, well. I wasn’t worried, because Mom’s an easy critic.

I used a reduced sugar raspberry preserves, since there’s enough sugar in these bars already. The heat of the bars helped warm the jam, allowing me to spread out the jam easier. I tried to leave a bit of a border between the jam and the pan so that getting them out won’t be too much of a chore. The filling was liquidy enough that I didn’t have to spread it out.

The baking bars made the kitchen smell like butter and sugar and crepes and those delectable smelling Belgian waffles at the ski resort I used to go to as a kid. I could have died then and been perfectly happy. Okay, not perfectly since I would not have been able to eat the bars, but still.

The bars came out a little brown after 35 minutes (and my oven runs cold!), so I’d suggest that you start checking at 30 minutes.

I omitted the chocolate glaze on top. That’s how I originally made them, actually. But I was too lazy to make it this time, and we really don’t need the extra calories.

The shortbread was buttery and crumbly, but not overly so. The filling was a bit grainy, but was full of great almond flavor. I would have liked more jam to cut against the richness of the almonds, but it was still very good. I loved the chewiness of the top- it was almost like mochi.

These layered almond shortbread bars aren’t quite as easy as Yvonne Ruperti’s Mix-in-the-Pan Berry Almond Bars, but they made up for the extra effort in buttery decadence.

Layered Almond Shortbread Bars
adapted from Baking for All Occasions by Flo Braker

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted cold butter, cut into 1/2 T portions
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Combine flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter. Mix in the yolks and vanilla. Dough should clump when squeezed.
  2. Pat into a greased 11 x 15 pan. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes until set and cream colored. Cool.

10 oz almond paste
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
4 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup jam (I used raspberry)

Place almond paste in a bowl. Add sugar in a steady stream and mix. Mix in the butter. Add eggs 1 at a time and beat well after each. Mix in vanilla.

Spread the jam over the crust. Spread the filling over the jam. Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes until almond filling looks set and is just firm.

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