I spent a couple of weekends this month teaching workshops in Kachemak Bay outside of Homer, and, man, the wild berries were gorgeous, early and plentiful.

On this most lovely writing workshop binge in the Alaska wilds, a friend gifted me with a jar of salmonberry jelly. It happens, though, that I don’t eat much bread. I wanted to find a way to honor my delicious jam without toast. (Hot buttered toast with jam, we all know, is a sublime pleasure that cannot be recreated with gluten-free bread.) So, while I was on Yukon Island, my friend Gretchen, who runs the retreat center there, and I started playing with this recipe for jam bars. Gretchen, on a side note, is a most magical, lovable human, who, with her sister Melissa, cooked and baked for all of us the whole time we were there. She knows her way around the kitchen. This is Gretchen:

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Gretchen, goddess of Yukon.

Here are some the recipes from her amazing baking recipe box.

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Gretchen’s Yukon Island baking box.

We decided to start with a modified version of the crust on her recipe for “Dream Bars” with an oaty streusel topping. It came out too sweet, so I reduced the sugar when I was testing again, and then I realized the topping and the crust were so similar, we could just use them for both parts of the bar. The result was pretty perfect. Not too sweet, nice and buttery. I used regular oats, but I think quick oats would be less crumbly. This recipe would absolutely work with any kind of jam. What I liked about the salmonberry is that the berries themselves aren’t that sweet and salt of the butter enhances their flavor. This recipe would be killer with rhubarb jam. These bars are great lunch box fodder.

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Gretchen’s boat. Yukon Island.

 

Yukon Island Salmonberry Jam Bars

Ingredients:
1 cup wheat flour or GF flour (Pamela’s, King Arthur or Cup 4 Cup)
1 cup oats, regular or quick work fine
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking power
a generous pinch of salt
1 1/4 sticks of salted butter, cold
1 8-ounce jar of salmonberry (or any sort) jam or jelly

Heat the oven to 350º. Grease an 8 x 8 square pan. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and salt until well combined. Cut the butter into pats, drop them on top of the dry ingredients and use your hands or a pie cutter to mix the butter into the flour mixture, with a technique similar to making pie crust. Mix until the butter is well combined, with chunks no bigger than pea-sized and a texture that resembles a crumble topping. Dump half the flour mix into the square pan and press it down firmly to form the lower crust. Spoon the jam on top and spread evenly. Shake the rest of the flour mix on top and pat down gently. Bake for 35 minutes until the jam bubbles around the edges. Cool before cutting. (Here’s a close-up, just out of the oven.)

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