Buttery pie crust, a juicy, jammy cherry center, all topped with a sweet oatmeal crumble – is there a more perfect summer dessert? These delicious desserts can be made without a mixer.
Summer means it’s cherry season and I recently went cherry picking and came home with 10 pounds of fresh, sweet cherries. While I love eating cherries plain, I think these cherry crumble pie bars are a perfect way of taking those cherries and turning them into a delicious summer dessert.
There’s no pre-baking or stove top cooking for these pie bars. We’ll use the same basic pie dough for the base and top of the bar, and you can spread the raw cherries in the middle without any pre-cooking. Honestly, the hardest part of this recipe is waiting for the bars to cool so you can dig in!
How to make perfect pie bar dough
The dough is sturdy yet crumbles in your mouth when you take a bite – the perfect base for these cherry pie bars.
Ingredients for buttery pie dough
The base of this pie dough is all purpose flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter. The recipe also calls for some cardamom, which adds beautiful floral notes that go perfectly with the sweetness of the cherries. However, if you don’t have cardamom on hand, you can replace the cardamom with ground cinnamon instead.
You’ll then mix in egg, milk, and vanilla extract. After adding the wet ingredients, the dough should still be crumbly and look like wet sand.
Tips for handling butter in pie dough
I think the key to the perfect crumbly pie bar lies in the butter. You want the butter to be in pea-sized chunks. When the dough bakes in the oven, the butter will melt and create a slightly flaky texture. Here are some tips to handle the butter:
- Make sure that the butter is very cold, so that it does not melt into the dough. I like to cube the butter and place it in the freezer to chill while I pit the cherries and combine the rest of the dry ingredients.
- When you incorporate the butter into the dough, use a pastry cutter or 2 forks to break the cubes into smaller pieces. You can then use the tips of your fingers to rub the butter in to form coarse crumbs. The tips of your finger are not as warm as the palm of your hand, so they are less likely to melt the butter.
Honestly though, even if the butter gets a little melty, your pie bars are going to come out delicious!
How to make a delicious cherry pie filling
This recipe calls for 3 cups of pitted cherries, which is about 1.2 pounds of whole cherries. If you have a cherry pitter, power to you – this part will be a lot easier. I don’t have a cherry pitter so I just rip apart the cherries using (clean) hands.
Along with the cherries, you’ll add the following ingredients:
Granulated sugar, which provides extra sweetness
Lemon zest, to provide extra flavor
Lemon juice, to add some tartness
Corn starch, to thicken the filling and create a jammy texture
Plus a secret ingredient – 1 tbsp of orange liqueur. This is totally optional, but I think it adds a lovely “oomph” factor to the pie bars. If you don’t have orange liqueur on hand, you can skip it and the bars will still come out delicious.
These bars are perfect for bringing to a summer picnic or barbecue, and I hope you love them as much as my family and friends do!
Other summer desserts to try:
If you make this recipe, please let me know! I always love to see what my readers are baking. You can comment below or tag me on Instagram @halicopteraway.
Cherry crumble pie bars
- 9 x 9 inch baking pan
- Parchment paper
- 2 1/4 cups (280g) all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp ground cardamom (can substitute ground cinnamon)
- 3/4 cup (172g) unsalted butter, very cold and cut into cubes
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp (30g) milk
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup rolled oats, for topping
- 3 cups (550g) pitted cherries (about 1.2 pounds unpitted cherries)
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp (75g) granulated sugar
- 2 1/4 tsp corn starch
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp orange liqueur (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9×9 baking pan with parchment paper, leaving some hanging off opposite edges. This will make the bars easier to lift from the pan.
- In a large bowl, add the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, and cardamom. Whisk until well combined. Add the cold, cubed butter. Use two forks to break apart the pieces of butter. Then, gently use the tips of your fingers to rub the butter into the dough until you have pea-sized crumbles.
- Place the dry pie dough ingredients into the fridge to stay cool while you make the filling. In a medium bowl, add the pitted cherries, sugar, corn starch, lemon zest, lemon juice, and orange liqueur. Mix together well and set aside.
- Remove the dry ingredients from the fridge. Whisk together the egg, milk, and vanilla extract. Drizzle it over the dry ingredients, then mix together using a spatula or wooden spoon until incorporated. The mixture should look like wet sand and still be a little crumbly.
- Take 2/3 of the pie dough and press it evenly onto the bottom of the baking tray. Spread the cherry filling evenly over the dough. Crumble the remaining 1/3 of the dough over the filling. Then, sprinkle the surface with the rolled oats.
- Place the baking tray in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 40 – 45 minutes until the top is a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. I usually let the bars cool at room temperature for 30 minutes then place in the fridge for the rest of the time.
- Remove from the tray and cut into 16 squares. Store leftover bars in covered containers in the fridge.
- I recommend cubing the butter then chilling in the freezer for 5 – 10 minutes to make sure it’s nice and cold.
- If you have a pastry cutter or a food processor, you can use those instead of two forks to incorporate the butter into the flour.