Eastern European Christmas Jam Cookie Bars

I’m so excited to share our family’s very old, traditional Christmas Jam Cookie Bars recipe with you as part of a shop that has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #EasyHolidayEats #CollectiveBias Eastern European Christmas Jam Cookie BarsGrowing up, you could always count on my (maternal) grandma to make two things for our Christmas celebrations – nut roll and jam cake. These were traditional family recipes my grandma remembers her grandmother making as a child. We later learned that nut roll was called “potica” in their native slovene tongue. My great-grandma’s parents were born in the former Yugoslavia (Zagreb, Sarajevo, and Dubrovnik were familial cities of importance) and immigrated here before having children. So my great-grandma was the 1st generation born here (in 1912). Potica was a classic holiday treat for them, as was “jam cake”. We had both of these treats every single year until my grandma’s Alzheimers diagnosis and I miss these traditions. So, my mom and I recently pulled out some of the old family recipes (in my great-grandma’s pretty cursive scroll no less). We always thought the name “jam cake” was odd though because as you can see, there really isn’t anything cake-like about it. Yugoslavian Chrismtas CookiesSo, my mom and I have been doing some research. We could NOT find anything named “jam cake” that resembles our family recipe. However, we did find some other names like Hungarian Jelly Bars (or Hungarian Pastry Bars), Yugoslavian Dream Bars, Yugoslavian Christmas Cookies, and/or Serbian Zora Kolači that are all quite similar to these bars. Our family recipe seems to be a meld of some of these, omitting the meringue layer that many have. What’s interesting is that Hungary borders part of what was Yugoslavia and my grandma’s father was Hungarian. So, there definitely could have been some family changes made to one of these more traditional recipes we found. That’s what’s always interesting about recipes – different regions, different families, etc all had different takes on the same basic recipe ideas. Also, we saw that Kolač (pronounced Kolach) means pastry/cake and Kolači are cookies/small cakes. So, we’re thinking that maybe the “jam cake” got lost in translation a bit as it really referred more to a pastry – like “jam pastry squares” really is probably the best name for these! Since our family has both those Slavic and Hungarian roots, I just decided to go with a more general “Eastern European” label for these jam cookie bars. But, it really doesn’t matter what you call them, because they are delicious no matter what! Jam Pastry BarsReally, these are SO good! Sooooo good! The crust is rich, nutty, and buttery with a nice hint of lemon. And, then of course, you can’t go wrong with a sweet layer of fruit jam. Though you can technically do any flavor of jam that you’d like in this dessert dish (apricot, berry, or plum were all common), the Smucker’s Fruit & Honey Triple Berry Fruit Spread is perfect. I love that it is naturally sweetened with honey, making all the ingredients in this traditional dish seem more “old country” and natural, cooking these bars from scratch as my great-great grandma would have. If you’re a fan of blueberry specifically, the Smucker’s Fruit & Honey Blueberry Lemon Fruit Spread would be another delicious option for these European jam bars with an extra hint of lemon to compliment what’s already in the pastry dough!Berry Jam BarsThe recipe really is super easy to make too. The dough gets a bit soft & sticky, so you’ll want to make sure everything is greased well (and hands/surfaces are floured before working with it). But, really, there is nothing hard or overly fancy with this. Just a few simple, natural ingredients and 15 minutes or less of prep! Since the Smucker’s Fruit & Honey Fruit Spreads are simple (just fruit & honey combined), it fits right in with this recipe adding just the perfect touch of sweetness! So simple! Doing the lattice part is really the only thing that takes a little extra time, but it’s worth it! european-jam-pastries

Here’s the recipe:

5.0 from 2 reviews
Eastern European Christmas Jam Cookie Bars
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
An old family Christmas tradition brought over from Eastern Europe, these jam pastry bars are packed with simple, delicious flavor!
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: European
Serves: 2 dozen
Ingredients
  • 2 C flour
  • 2 C ground walnuts
  • ½ lb (8oz) sweet unsalted butter
  • 1 C sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 TBSP sour cream
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 jars Smucker's Fruit & Honey Triple Berry Fruit Spread (approx. 18oz)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add egg yolks, lemon zest, and sour cream.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together flour and ground walnuts.
  4. Add dry ingredients to the wet, combine well to form a soft dough.
  5. Take ⅔ batter/dough and line bottom of a greased 9x13 pan. Press up the sides just a bit so jam doesn't leak out & stick to the pan sides.
  6. Layer the fruit spread evenly over the dough.
  7. With remaining ⅓ dough, roll out flat and cut small (1/2" - 1" strips). Use strips to form a lattice top over the fruit layer.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes.
  9. Let cool before cutting. Serve & enjoy!
Notes
*given the nature of this dough, these bars can end up a bit crumbly. So just keep that in mind when serving. Making sure they're completely cooled before cutting seems to help cut down on that some.

European Jam Pastry BarsSo good! I’m feeling all nostalgic now and ready for more holiday baking! You can stock up on all the flavors of the Smucker’s Fruit & Honey Fruit Spreads while shopping at Walmart. The Smuckers Fruit & Honey Fruit Spread varieties include: Triple Berry, Strawberry, Blueberry Lemon, Strawberry Jalapeno and Concord Grape! YUM! smuckers-fruit-spread

For more delicious recipes and holiday entertaining ideas, visit the Smucker’s Fruit & Honey Fruit Spreads site.  Click here to earn $1.00 off Smucker’s Fruit & Honey Fruit Spread!

Also, if your family has any Eastern European/Slavic roots and makes something similar, I would LOVE to know in the comments below!

Like it? Pin it! Traditional European Jam Pastry Bars

Pin It

Comments

  1. says

    What a lovely family story and tradition. I love the holidays and the traditions around baking. My grandma always made jam thumbprint cookies. Though this looks just as delicious.

  2. Kathy says

    These look awesome and delicious! I love that they have just basic ingredients. Nothing fancy and the jam sounds wonderful!

  3. Samantha K says

    I have never tried anything like these before. I definitely need to though because they look delicious! (client)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe: