Kitchen Curious: Blackberry Custard Bars combine sweet custard with buttery crust

The photo of Jackie Bruchez’s Blackberry Custard Bars made me salivate.

Those bars looked as fitting to the name of her new cookbook, “Decadent Fruit Desserts” (Page Street Publishing Co., $21.99), as all the other fruit-forward, photo-riffic sweet treats scattered in the 150-plus-page book.

What also captured my attention was a list of ingredients that had me reminiscing for a St. Louis specialty dessert called Gooey Butter Cake. Shared ingredients for the two include butter, eggs, powdered sugar and vanilla extract. And let’s mention it again and again: butter and more butter.

Bruchez’s bars looked as dense as the soft-centered, crisp-edged, sugary confection from my hometown. Yet, they offer a wholly different texture. The traditional base for Gooey Butter Cake is made with a fancy thing called vanilla cake mix, pressed into the bottom of the pan. In contrast, the crust for Blackberry Custard Bars is a far more fancy thing called shortbread. The filling for these berry bars is akin to a thick tapioca custard, as opposed to a sticky-sweet one made with cream cheese. The end result is not cloyingly sweet like Gooey Butter Cake, but just as delicious.

What’s more: The blackberries — not the filling or the custard — take center stage in this recipe, particularly because the whole berries don’t break down in the baking process. And when you run out of those black beauties, change it up with any berry combination you have on hand.

Reprinted with permission from “Decadent Fruit Desserts” by Jackie Bruchez, Page Street Publishing Co. 2019.


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