From a very young age I loved baking, and experimenting in the kitchen, but I never thought I would one day create my own line of gourmet food products. Yet after a long and successful career in the film industry, that’s exactly what I did. Now I run Just Jan’s, a line of award winning artisanal, all-natural fruit spreads. Each product begins in my kitchen, and is fine tuned until it meets standards for flavor, texture and consistency. After years of baking, making, and producing I'm bringing you a quarterly column to explore all things JAM.
When people ask what inspires my next flavor for a fruit spread, my mind goes to ‘what can I cook or bake with it’ or ‘which cheese will it pair best with?’ There are so many creative and easy ways to use jams, jellies and marmalades, it’s not just for toast or PB & J. Using fruit spreads in your cooking can give a recipe an added (and needed!) ummph! One of my favorite things to make with my spreads are bars. Oat bars, shortbread bars, crumble bars… well you get the idea. Bars make a quick dessert, snack or sweet treat to enjoy with your morning coffee.
Oat bars are my go-to recipe, and I usually grab my Kadota fig spread for this one. There's something about the flavor of these figs, combined with brown sugar and butter - it's simply addicting! That said, you can use any number of flavors of jam. Our recipe calls for an entire jar, however depending on your taste you can start with ½ - ¾ cup then add more if you like extra fig flavor. More is more! I also like to add cinnamon and nuts to the topping mixture which adds to the crunch factor.
Living in southern California, summer comes on so fast that we almost skip right over spring, which means strawberries are in season early here. These Strawberry Shortcake Bars were inspired by summer and the sweet, tart flavor of strawberries. When I was coming up with this recipe, I wanted a combination of shortcake and shortbread. As the ingredients for the dough come together, it resembles a kind of thick cake batter. I found myself eating the dough… just to make sure it was good (insert winky emoji here), but you’ll see what I mean when you make these. I’ve used our new, almost-released gluten free flour blend for these, but of course all purpose flour works perfectly.
My newest addition to the bar lineup uses our seedless raspberry combined with fresh blueberries, which may be my new favorite! I wanted to use two berries for flavor and thought the blueberries would give the bar a different texture and sweetness to complement the tart, tangy raspberry spread. The end result is a recipe that comes together quickly and easily and is melt-in your-mouth deliciousness.
With so many different possibilities, I will definitely play with these recipes again. I want to try lemon curd and blueberries, which is a flavor combination I've done in a cheesecake, or if you're looking for a tropical twist you could use pineapple curd and fresh cut up mango with a sprinkling of toasted coconut. So many ways to change it up and use spreads and jams to create your perfect dessert or snack bar.
My next project will be creating new ways to incorporate jams for savory cooking and baking. That will be our upcoming edition of Everything with Jam!
Note: For Gluten free bakers, you can substitute your favorite 1-1 GF flour (or a blend of almond, sweet white rice flour and tapioca starch) in any of these recipes.