Random Crap: Book Edition and Apricot Jam Crumble Bars

Apricot Jam Crumb Bars | www.gottagetbaked.com
I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. Ok, that’s not entirely accurate. I was raised by television (with my grandparents hovering in the background) until I went to kindergarten where my love for reading really blossomed. Remember books on tape? I borrowed every single one from my elementary school library. My favourites were the Little Mr and Little Miss books (especially Little Miss Shy since I could totally relate) and any Disney books. The people reading the books had such friendly voices and there was always lovely music in the background.

Do they still have books on tape for kids?

At a young age, I blitzed through the Anne of Green Gables series, the Little House books, every book written by Beverly Cleary, Christopher Pike, the Fudge series by Judy Blume as well as Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret. Did you ever read the Clues in the Woods books by Peggy Parish (she was also the author of the Amelia Bedelia books)? Or the Betsy books by Maud Hart Lovelace? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, the BFG…any number of books by Roald Dahl. And of course, the Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins series. I also started reading riskier fare like Sweet Valley High, the V.C. Andrews books and anything by Stephen King in the fifth grade.
Apricot jam crumble bars | www.gottagetbaked.com
Back in early August, Tony’s sweet niece celebrated her seventh birthday. We usually give her cash but now that she’s growing up, we wanted to give her something that she can really enjoy. She always gets tons of toys from her friends so we nixed that idea. I wanted to get her the entire Ramona series by Beverly Cleary and set out to find it on Amazon or Chapters online. To my horror and dismay, I discovered that they changed all the covers of the books (some of them had Selena Gomez on the cover. Seriously? Just because she was in that one terrible movie adaptation? Spare me!) and they changed all the illustrations inside. It’s fucking blasphemy. Why would they do this?

I know Ramona two ways. One, the Louis Darling illustrations:

Illustration by Louis Darling.

Illustration by Louis Darling.


Two, the Allan Tiegreen illustrations:
Illustration by Allan Tiegreen.

Illustration by Allan Tiegreen.


THIS is what Ramona looks like now:
Illustration by Tracy Dockray.

Illustration by Tracy Dockray.


I was heartbroken. The Husband thought I was being super crazy but it really made me sad because I felt like society had destroyed a small piece of my childhood. Of course, all the editions I own have the original illustrations so I can still enjoy them. But today’s generation won’t. They’ll think that Beezus looks like Selena Gomez and that’s just wrong.

The Husband says that our niece will never know the difference because she’ll have never seen the original versions and that’s exactly the point. I want her to have the exact same experience and the exact same emotions as I did when I was a kid and discovering these books for the first time!

In an interview Ms. Cleary gave to the Atlantic, she was asked about the change in illustrations. She stated that she’d always been very happy with the original drawings but her publisher felt it was time for a change. In other words, she was forced into it.

Damn you, publisher! Damn you!
Apricot jam crumble bars | www.gottagetbaked.com
Here’s a line that I really loved from her interview:

Question: As a former librarian, how do you think libraries can or should respond to the declining resources and shifts in usage today?

Answer: That’s something I can’t solve, but I don’t think anything will ever replace the pleasure of holding a book and turning its pages.

I fully agree. I will never get onboard with e-readers. Nothing will ever be as satisfying as going to the bookstore, browsing through all of those titles, smelling the fresh new paper, holding a book in my hands and feeling its weight, running my hands over the cover, reading the synopsis on the back or the inside cover and flipping the pages. I used to look through all the different copies so that I could buy the book with the most perfect, pristine cover, without any rips or tears or creases.

I used to hate lending my books out because I liked keeping my collection together and I worried that the borrower wouldn’t treat my treasures with the same care as I did. Owning books has always been a privilege and a luxury. Did your elementary school participate in the Scholastic book program? I’d receive the order forms every few weeks, circling the books that I wanted even though I knew I couldn’t buy them because my family couldn’t afford them.

I’ve collected almost all the books that I loved as a kid and whenever life gets a bit too stressful, I pull them off my bookshelf and let them take me away to a simpler time. What about you? What childhood books hold a special place in your heart? Do you still read them today?

While you ponder, how about enjoying some of these apricot jam crumble bars?
Apricot Jam Crumb Bars | www.gottagetbaked.com
Apricot Jam Crumble Bars (adapted from David Lebovitz)
12 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed, at room temp
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
grated zest of half a lemon
1/2 tsp culinary lavender
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
apricot jam

Line a 9 inch square pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil then butter the insides or spray with cooking spray.

In the bowl of your stand mixer or in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer, cream the butter with the powdered sugar and salt until it’s light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, lemon zest and lavender, then gradually add in the flour and cornstarch, mixing until the dough is smooth.

Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and pat it flat into the bottom of the pan using lightly floured hands. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes.

Don’t bother washing your bowl – you can make the crumble in it while the dough is chilling.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. After the dough has been in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until it has begun to turn golden. Remove from the oven.

Crumb Topping

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
pinch of salt
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed, chilled

In the bowl of your stand mixer or in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer, mix all the crumb topping ingredients together until the mixture just barely starts clumping together.

Spread as much apricot jam as you like over the cooled partially baked shortbread. I tried to get the layer as thin as possible because I didn’t want my bars to be overly sweet. Top the jam layer with the crumb topping. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the topping is browned.

Remove from the oven and cool completely in the pan. Remove the bars by grasping the edges of the parchment paper or foil. Slice into squares.
Apricot jam crumble bars | www.gottagetbaked.com
I stored the bars in an airtight container at room temperature for about three days before they were all eaten. These bars are legit, you guys. The shortbread layer is thick, buttery and slightly floral due to the lavender. It’s delightful and matches perfectly with the sweet, sticky jam and crispy, nutty topping. Each bite yields a mix of texture and flavours.

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47 thoughts on “Random Crap: Book Edition and Apricot Jam Crumble Bars

  1. I really don’t like it when they change book covers or the illustrations inside. it is like a treasured family recipe that needs to be passed down as-is to future generations. Changing takes away all the original charm and what set it apart from all the rest.

  2. We have so much in common! I was raised in front of TV (and still love it) but once I learned how to read I fell in love with books (many of the same ones you did. Little House on the Prairie got devoured in 2nd grade :P) and I cannot get down with E-readers.

    also…umm….Ramona=Selena Gomez. WEEEEIRD

  3. The Betsy books! Nancy, I loved those, and had forgotten about them! Ah, good memories 🙂 I love to read too, but lately cookbooks have found their way into my hands more often than novels. Probably better for me honestly 🙂
    Um these bars … you totally sold it with crumb topping. Practically a requirement and one I cannot get enough of!

    • I’ve been wanting to find all the Betsy books and buy them but I’m trying to be good and save my money. I used to love the illustrations so much. The fashion back then was unreal! I totally share your love of a good crumb topping. Sometimes I just want to bake up a batch of crumb topping and just eat it as is!

  4. I love that you still have copies of all your favorite childhood books! I remember reading many of the same ones, all the Judy Blume and Roald Dahl, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Anne of Green Gables, and of course Ramona was my top favorite! I loved the illustrations too. And I also got waaay into the L. Frank Baum Oz series. My local library had old, old, old copies and the illustrations looked like they were from the Downton Abbey era. I wish they wouldn’t change stuff like that, it’s such a trip to go back and look again. My kids enjoy the ebooks that read to them, there are no pages to turn, you know, they just tap to the next page, and I sometimes wonder if they’ll feel sentimental about that when they’re raising their kids and there’s some other, even more newfangled way of reading!

    • I never read Baum’s Oz books. I should try reading them now. Just like I never read Lewis Carrol’s Alice books. By the time your kids have kids, I’m sure there will be robots reading to them. Or maybe we’ll all have chips implanted in our brains and we can download books right into our minds!

  5. I remember reading a series called Choose Your Own Adventure as a kid. You’d read a two or three page passage where the reader is the character in the story and then it would give you two options to take the character.

    • I loved those Choose Your Own Adventure books! Neil Patrick Harris just wrote a semi-autobiographical book and he wrote it in the Choose Your Own Adventure style. For example, you’ll get to a page where it says “go audition for Doogie Howser turn to page X or flake out of Doogie Houser audition go to page Y”. I totally want to read it just for the kitschy nostalgia factor.

  6. Never stopped reading paperbacks, don’t think I ever will – Ereaders are so much better for environment and efficiency but screen vs paper? PAPER WINS EVERY TIME 😀
    I love reading just as much as you my friend, which is probably why we are such fab friends! 😀

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

    • You’re right about the environmental factor (I never even thought of that angle!) but I just can’t bring myself to use an ereader. Lots of people argue that when they go on vacation, they load up their ereader and don’t have to lug around twenty pounds of books. I don’t mind – I’ll take two paperbacks with me and it’s not that big of a deal. Plus, if you’re by the pool and your book gets wet, no problem! Paper dries! Lol.

  7. Selena Gomez on the cover of a Ramona book??? NOOOOOO! What is wrong with society, honestly? Despite that making me want to cry a little bit, I loved this post. It brought back so many memories from childhood! I loved the Roald Dahl books, Ramona, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Little House. I also loved a series called “Wayside School.” I remember them being hysterical to me as a third grader. I grew up watching Anne of Green Gables, but I didn’t read the books until I was an adult. So good. Anne is a kindred spirit. If you ever get the chance, definitely visit PEI. We spent our honeymoon there. The setting is gorgeous, and it made me wonderfully romantic and wistful.

    • I LOVE that you guys went to PEI for your honeymoon. You didn’t pick it for the sole purpose of visiting Anne’s house, did you? If you do, that’s even more awesome and Will is a good sport! The maritimes is on my list of must-go-to places. It’s so charming, the people are so friendly and I’d eat a lobster a day. I totally remember the Wayside school books! My little sister had the entire set and I used to read them over and over again. Freaking hilarious!

  8. Well – now I’m going to age myself: My favorite books were Nancy Drew. My daughter’s were anything by L.M. Montgomery (and she read them all). My grandson has an iPad that he learned how to use by himself before he was two-years-old. At first, I was a little unhappy because he was mostly watching cartoons but, he is now almost 2 1/2 years old and knows all his letters by sight (although he sounds really funny when he says some letters, like “Q”), colors, numbers to 20, and all the shapes we put in front of him – which I think might be pretty good. I don’t know since my daughter didn’t learn to read until she was 9 because of dyslexia.

    I made this recipe for my mom who loves apricots yesterday. She and her old lady friends thought it was fantastic so you have the Old Lady Posse seal of approval! 🙂

    • Lol “old lady posse seal of approval”! Kelli, you should do a blog series and use that as the title! I love it! Hey, now, you’re not aging yourself. I loved Nancy Drew books too, especially the hard bound books with all of those beautiful illustrations. There’s a used book store near my house that has a ton of them on sale. The next time I find myself with some disposable income, I’m going to start collecting them.

      • Great idea! I remember thinking that Nancy and Ned (her boyfriend) must be the coolest! I’ve always loved mysteries as they were pretty much the only fiction books (beyond school requirements) that I have ever read – not a fiction reader – I would LOVE to have all the old books I used to read. BTW, the Old Lady Posse lives at the Land of Old! 🙂 Mother doesn’t know we call it either but it is hilarious!

  9. I’m with you on changing the illustrations! I still love the originals the most! And I also love your apricot bars..I’m definitely going to try these, but I’ll probably have to make half with raspberry jam for Bill. Apricot would definitely be my preference!

  10. Before I ponder the silliness of illustrations of a celebrity usurping original artwork, I’ll comfort myself with your fantabulous looking apricot jam crumble bars. Maybe I can find culinary lavender at Penzy’s Spices.

    So glad, Nancy, that a young whipper-snapper like you also appreciates the wonderfulness of holding a real book in your hands. Turning the pages of paper, seeing the sleek cover…all part of the fun of reading. I confess, I’m a bit compulsive too about picking out the best looking book…I’ll undoubtedly replicate this behavior of finding the best when shopping for fruit…or even apricot jam!

    • I’ve got an old soul, Kim! Sometimes I feel like I do too much fist waving at the young people and all their newfangled ways, lol. You know how much I love books. That’s why it touched me so much that you took the time, effort and money to buy Lisa See’s books and send them to me. You are really too kind, my friend. I don’t know what I did to deserve you!

  11. Omg I totally agree with you Nancy! I swear, I am always having this discussion with my husband! Aaarrgghh! I’m always telling him that I would rather read a real book in my hands than read a “book” off of a dang kindle or something. He always tries to tell me how easy it is and people do it all the time, but damnit, I’m not like most people and even though I love technology, there are just some things that should be left alone. I don’t give my daughter electronic devices to play with all day long, we supervise any computer time with her and she doesn’t watch tv except a short amount of time. I don’t want her growing up like a spoiled brat with no social skills like so many kids these days. We also read to her every day and she absolutely LOVES it!
    These apricot bars look gorgeous too, by the way!! I’m not really a fan of apricots too much, but I do have a new Halloween recipe coming soon where I use dried apricots to create something….it’ll surprise you what I did with it, lol! 🙂

    • Brandi, you surprise and delight me with every amazing blog post of yours. You’re absolutely killing it in the kitchen! Yay for instilling a love of reading in your daughter! Reading has gotten me through so many tough moments in my life. Besides music, it was one of my coping mechanisms because it takes me away to another world where I don’t have to think about my problems. I’m such a nerd but I will always tout the magic and education of reading.

  12. Nancy, oh my gawd! I didn’t know that?! I love the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary!!! I totally agree with you and this is why I still take phoebe and madeline to the library. . to get books! Fortunately, they both love going and phoebe loves reading. . her current fave series are Rainbow Magic books and Magic Treehouse books. I feel the same way about magazines too. . I love reading and actually holding one and flipping the pages. . that publisher sucks! You don’t mess with a classic. love the apricot jam crumble bars!!

    • Me too! I subscribe to Chatelaine (a Canadian mag) and Glamour. I get so excited when they arrive in the mail. I’ll do a quick flip through to see what’s in there and then I’ll slowly take my team reading through them. I’m glad you take your girls to the library. I haven’t stepped foot in a library for pleasure since high school. I used to buy a lot of used books from the library for like, fifty cents a book. It was such a good deal! I hate that they made Ramona look like a stylish pretty little girl. She’s a scamp. She’s feisty, awkward, vulnerable, fierce…these are all the reasons why kids relate to her and love her. The old illustrations captured her beautifully I thought.

  13. I loved this post, even though I’m shuddering to think about Selena Gomez representing Beezus just makes me sad. I read all, or very nearly all of the books you list here, plus Goosebumps. SO many Goosebumps books. I think my fondest memories were of the Fudge series. I’m scared to even look at what the covers of those look like now.

    I also agree with you on e-readers. I have one. My mom and I got them at the same time, and we decided to share one account for the two of them, so that we could share our library of books. The system worked out great until I realized I just really hated reading on the damn thing. It was a piece of crap, always losing my page and having to be charged. That’s not a book. It’s been collecting dust for about two years now.

    Lovely recipe. I just printed it so that I can make it for a football tailgate later this fall. I ALWAYS have apricot preserves on hand that need to be used up before they expire. Right now, I have two open jars. I don’t know why.

    • So many people complain about the quality of those e-readers. It’s like, what’s the point?! And I stare at a computer screen aaaaaaall day long at work (I usually drive home with blood shot eyes) and then I spend more time on the computer doing blogging stuff. Ugh. Enough! Reading a book on paper is so soothing and comforting. If I were you, I’d have thrown the darn thing at the wall. Mmmm…apricot preserves…if you need me to, I’ll gladly take some of the excess off your hands!

  14. Totally agree with your views regarding the illustrations and my daughter has been reading all those series you’ve mentioned.Selena Gomez on the covers is sooo seriously wrong!!What’s the world coming to?I’ve been raised in India so these were not the typical books I read, but I’m also an avid reader and read Nancy Drew,Hardy Boys,Roald Dahl,Agatha Christie and so on!Good old days 🙂
    And yes nothing like physically flipping pages and holding a book.Just like these Apricot crumble bars I think I need to physically try making these with my daughter to taste the deliciousness 🙂

    • Lol, I agree – you should definitely get your hands dirty and make these bars! You’ll love them! I never read the Hardy Boys but the covers of those books always looked so cool. I figured they were the male version of Nancy Drew. I hope you’re still making time in your busy life to read! I try to but it’s hard.

  15. I understand exactly how you feel about Ramona. I read the Ramona books in my classroom and to my own kids. Why anyone thinks that illustrations needed “updating” is beyond me. All of the kids I read to were entranced by the stories and the illustrations. I feel exactly the same way about Pooh. Winnie the Pooh and his buddies are NOT supposed to look like Disney characters. I remember my mom reading Winnie the Pooh to me as a child and my original copies of the A.A. Milne books are cherished. Actually, all of my books are cherished. I am a book pack rat. I have many of my childhood books, my kids’ (both in their 20’s now) books starting with board books and continuing through Harry Potter, plus I have 12 years of classroom library books accumulated from Scholastic book orders. Please don’t call the hoarding police. Books(their characters and illustrations) become friends. Its that simple. These bars are just what I need to ease the melancholy of pondering the world around us. The buttery shortbread would probably do the trick on its own. Topped with jam and crumbles, they could make me euphoric! 🙂

  16. I was the same way with the books – I tore through them as quickly as they could be published! My parents eventually had to put their foot down and told me I could only have a certain number of new books every month (because of course I had to OWN the books, too) so I didn’t read us out of house and home! I had the same taste as you, too: Baby sitters club and sweet valley high. Also, let’s not forget goosebumps, choose your own adventure and the boxcar kids! I loved series books if you can’t tell 🙂 Great memories!

  17. I adored reading this post so much, especially the part about collecting book once love as a child and picking them back up to take you back to a time when life was simpler and less stressful. I cherries those experiences too, and whatever can keep me grounded in the most important things in life. Thank you for this beautiful post and delicious recipe! I would savor these over any book, especially those from childhood.
    Blessings,
    Roz from La Bella Vita Cucina

  18. I apologize for the automatic spell ‘changes’ that took place in my previous messages. I hope that you were able to understand my intent in words. Roz

  19. I feel so sad (and old) when I go to my school library to grab an old favourite to read to my students and the cover has been bastardized. It’s the same with the classic cartoons-I’ve honestly had kids fall asleep whole watching a classic cartoon from the 70’s. The only grinch kids know today is the Jim Carrey variety.

  20. AMEN, LADY. The Ramona series was hands down my favorite growing up so when I saw the Selema Who Wth version on the shelf I sent up a wail to rival the Banshee of Nottingham’s. Luckily I have been stocking up ever since–at used book stores and our library sale shelf–and now own about half the series with original illustrations. Only way to go! With some of these bars for company!

  21. Gawd, society ruins everything. Girl, you had great taste in books back in the day. I love a good Judy Blume. I wish we lived closer so I could invite you to join my book club. Yurp, I’m a nerd. These bars are too die for.

  22. Pingback: A Cross Country Culinary Tour | Go Bake Yourself

  23. Oh my gosh, blag. Why do they have to ruin decent animation with a super detailed, real-life looking person? I miss old, not-overly detailed animation. To answer your question, Ella Enchanted was one of my favorite books as a child, and I still love to read it today, the same copy sitting on my shelf, tattered and careworn because unfortunately I wasn’t very careful with my books as a kid. It still has a pink star sticker on the back cover from the 5th grade. PS those bars look legit Nancy.

  24. Wow, talk about a blast from the past! I had forgotten all about those books until now! i loved the Ramona series, as well as Enid Blyton books from England! Definitely worth reading again!!

  25. Some really love eye thoughts and sentiments on old fashioned books and old fashioned treats! I will never ever give up cook books! Though they weigh a tonne and are cumbersome at the best of times, pouring through pages, with delicacies, food and anecdotes is what cooking is about…and blogs of course 😉 Love the addition of the Lavendar and jam, very afternoon worthy indeed!

  26. I don’t think you’re overreacting at all about Ramona. The older images bring back memories for sure. I don’t even recognize the new ones. I’m also a big Roald Dahl fan. We should start a food bloggers book club (and eat lots of these crumb bars)!

  27. Oh my god they totally destroyed Ramona! I loved those books! Mind you, I loved all books (especially Harry Potter, those were the best), and still am pretty fond of reading for pleasure when I have the time. As for ereaders, I do have one, mainly because I was running out of space to store books, although I go buy an actual book sometimes so I have real pages to thumb through. Also, I cannot understand why ebooks are just as expensive as real ones when there isn’t any paper involved. Rip off!

  28. So I know I’m about a million months late, but ohmygod these bars I need them!! They look insane and like everything I’d ever want in a dessert. And second, you just totally described my childhood! My parents could NOT get me to sit down with a book (to their utter despair) until I discovered Ramona when I was …. well, age 8 HA. I can’t believe those illustrations are gone!!!! I just Googled them and… now I’m sad too. lol. So I think I’ll go back to staring at these bars.

  29. Just buy the books second hand in the edition with the illustrations you like best. That will make it a very meaningful gift.

  30. Thank you for the recipe! turned out good. May be a little too sweet so i am making adjustments. I also would like to know why the dough has to be refrigerated. Thanks!

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