Squinting, I looked at my clock. It was six a.m. The house was silent and dark. I quietly rolled out of bed. Today was one of my only days off from my early morning runs, yet I was compelled to get out from under the warm, heavy blankets. As I closed the bedroom door and walked into the kitchen, my body started to acknowledge its protest of getting up early was going to be ignored. I stood in my kitchen silently drinking my coffee while watching my neighborhood being enveloped in a dreamy fog. Once my mind and body both felt fully awake, I started gathering ingredients and preheating the oven.
As I creamed the butter together with the sugars, I began to think back over the week and mark the little triumphs and extend myself grace for the moments of defeat. I replayed the tender moments I want to keep stored forever and laughed at some of my funnier mistakes. As I carefully placed the pan in the hot oven, a calmness had settled in my heart. I heard the patter of small feet as the warm water washed over my hands from the last of the dishes. I was able to greet them with enthusiastic hugs and with less of a sense of urgency to get “everything done.” The morning was far from perfect. There were still petty squabbles over who got what bowl and who was sitting in whose chair and many other simple things that went awry. But my patience and ability to roll with it seemed to be extended.
My life has been feeling like a wobbly Jenga tower, 14 rounds into the game, with the potential of collapsing if one wrong move is made. I’ve been busy taking plenty of risks and it’s made for a very full January. I’ve had little time to savor any moments of quiet. As a lifelong introvert, this left me feeling depleted. Life is full of demands and joys – little triumphs, and silent defeats. It doles out days of heartbreak and days exploding with joy; normal gray days and our most extraordinary moments. Carving out times of reflection allows me to process, sift through my day, pulling out memories one by one – to file away huge successes, things not to do again, and my most treasured memories in the file box of my brain. It helps us finally shut the door on the pain from past and relish in the moments of glory.
The kitchen has become a place of solace for me. Creating different tastes and textures relaxes my body and reenergizes my mind.
These bars are a small reminder that spring and summer are on the way with the bright jam and warm crumb topping. They are a perfect afternoon snack and might even be eaten as breakfast, if no one is looking.
Strawberry Jam Crumb Bars
Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 cup of brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of almond extract
3/4 cup of chopped almonds
1 cup of strawberry jam
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 8 inch baking dish. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
Whisk the butter and sugars on high speed until light and fluffy. Add in the egg yolk and extracts. Once well combined, slowly add in the flour. Once the flour is well combined, add in the almonds. Whisk the jam to loosen it up. I also find that heating it up slightly, (by the microwave or over the stove) helps.
Gently press half of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread the jam over the dough. Crumb the remaining dough over the top of the jam. Cook for for 25-30 minutes until golden. Cut into squares. These keep best in the refrigerator.