Plum Vanilla Crumble Bars

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It’s the change of seasons and it also means changes for us. We’ve bought a house in upstate New York and have to do a bunch of things for the new house (like fix stinky well water). I have to admit, I wish I could’ve teleported all our belongings. William makes fun of me because we always end up moving right before Thanksgiving (much to my doing). Then we host guests for Thanksgiving, and right before they arrive, I distribute a seriously long to-do list with an aggressive timeline. An itty bitty detail I can over look is that we’re a two person team, just us. The year we moved into the loft we built walls: installed the studs, drywalled, sanded and painted. The last coat of paint was still drying when my mom arrived.



Fall also means a few food things: pumpkins and plums. Ok, maybe those two things don’t go together, but individually, they’re my favorites. Another favorite of mine is shortbread. I normally make it once a year, around the holidays. A good way to squeak in some shortbread is in a bar. These bars have a rich shortbread base, plum vanilla filling, and crumble topping. Sounds good? It is! It is a three step process. You can make the filling a day in advance. It will hold since it’s essentially a dense jam. There are so many different types of plums. You can choose one, or mix and match.



Plum Bars Recipe

First, make the crumble topping, then the shortbread. While the shortbread is baking, make the plum filling. Assemble and bake together. 

Crumble Topping

  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 almond slices, toasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold butter
  1. Mix dry ingredients on medium bowl
  2. Cut butter into cubes then, using a pastry cutter, cut into dry mixture until pea sized mixture is formed. Should be crumbly looking
  3. Place in fridge until ready to use

Shortbread crust

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks of butter (3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Combine flour and salt in a small bowl, set aside.
  3. Cream butter and both sugars together. Add vanilla and mix.
  4. Slowly incorporate flour mixture until combined.
  5. Press into a greased 8 x 8 baking dish. (I used a vintage baking dish with a textured bottom, so I lined my pan with parchment. It does make the bars easier to take out if you pan is fussy.)
  6. Press shortbread dough into the pan spreading evenly. Use a glass as a small rolling pin to even out if necessary.
  7. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.

Plum Filling

  • 5-6 cups plums, pitted and sliced
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
  1. Add plums and water to wide pan and heat through, them add sugar and vanilla paste
  2. Cook over medium heat until plums begin to break down, about 30 mins
  3. Let mixture cool a bit and transfer to food processor, and give it a whirl
  4. Put the mixture back in the pan, and continue to cook until thick paste forms, making sure to stir constantly, it will burn if you don’t stir!
  5. When you can scrape your spoon through the mixture and you see a trail, you’re almost there. This should take about 15 minutes. (Make sure you really cook this down enough. If you don’t the filling will be too runny and not hold the bar shape. You really have to get all the water out of the fruit. This step it really critical!)
  6. Once you see a thick paste form, you’re done, spread over shortbread and sprinkle crumble topping on top of the plum filling layer.
  7. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the toping begins to brown.
  8. Remove form oven and let cool. Cut into bars to serve. Store in fridge to keep filing firm.

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  1. Alicia says:

    Vanilla paste? No stores near me carry this in store. Can I set it out for vanilla extract? Have you done it? Would it change the taste a whole lot? What should I do? I really want to make this recipe but can’t find vanilla paste

    • You can use vanilla extract or a vanilla bean. I originally used vanilla paste to eliminate any additional liquid. You have to cook all the liquid out of the plums (it takes a while) in order to get them to set up and hold a bar shape. If you use vanilla extract, make sure to cook down a few minutes more. A another option is the split a vanilla bean – the flavor would be amazing – plus you would avoid adding extra liquid. 🙂

  2. Pam says:

    I tried to cook the plum paste down but after an hour of cooking, I gave up. Can I eliminate the cup of water next time? Just plums, vanilla and sugar?

    • Yes, I think you can eliminate the water, especially if you have really juicy plums. If I buy plums out of season they tend to be drier and better for baking (not so great for eating!).

  3. Dawn says:

    Do you peel the plums?

  4. Jane says:

    I made this last night after reading the comments that were not very encouraging. I decreased the sugar to 1 cup and water to 1/2 cup in the plum stage. When I blended it, I only blended the whole pieces of fruit and saved the extra juice in case I needed it. I didn’t need it and the sauce thickened up beautifully. These bars delicious!

  5. Sherry says:

    Thank you for the lovely recipe. I had some plum jam I made that did not seal when I canned it so I searched for a way to use it and spotted your recipe. These bars were the perfect place to use my jam.

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