Friday, May 2, 2014

Double Berry Crumb Bars

Happy Friday, everyone! Happy May, too!  Apparently, there's lots to be happy about.  The fact that we've finally reached the weekend, the sun is actually shining, and we're just a month closer to reaching summer are all things that make me smile, and hopefully they make you happy too. Hopefully everyone has something awesome planned for their weekend.  I'm having the Fried Chicken Dinner at Momofuku Noodle Bar, and I am SO SO SO excited about it.  I've been wanting to go for the longest time, and the fact that I finally, through sheer luck and persistence, managed to get a reservation at a normal dinner hour.  The trick is, in case anyone is interested, is to literally be sitting in front of your computer at 9:59 AM and keep hitting refresh until reservations open at 10, and then click as fast as you can.  It's nothing revolutionary, but it worked.  In addition to my Momofuku adventure, my sister is coming home from college for the weekend, and we have planned to have a muffin and pancake extravaganza.  Muffins, pancakes, fried chicken, and Momofuku desserts are some of my favorite things ever, so this weekend is looking like it will be something really, really great. 

If you're still figuring out how to make your weekend into something really great, I have a really good suggestion for you.  This weekend is supposed to be BEAUTIFUL out (at least Saturday in New York is), so why not plan an easy casual picnic and whip up some Double Berry Crumb Bars for dessert?  I have loved the idea of picnic meals for as long as I can remember, and I'm going to make sure I have as many picnic outings as I can during what's left of spring and all of summer.  They're so relaxed and casual, and there's something so great about enjoying a meal outside under a nice breeze.  Picnic meals require special foods that are easy to transport and easy to serve, and bar cookies are one of those items that fully satisfy both requirements.  Brownies, blondies, and lemon squares are classic bar cookie favorites, but I wanted something different that really screamed, "SPRING IS HERE!"  There's no better bar cookie for the job than one that is really just a berry crumble pie in disguise.  I'm talking about a bar cookie with a buttery shortbread crust, a juicy and fruity center layer, and a sweet, buttery crumb topping.  Hungry yet?  I sure am!

I've been wanting to make a version of these bars for a long, long time.  I love bar cookies because they're incredibly simple and quick to prepare, they're tasty, they yield a TON of bar cookies or squares or whatever you wanna call them, and they can be made the day before you need them and will taste just as good, if not better, the next day.  Bar cookies clearly have their advantages!  These bars embody all of the above listed perks.  It takes approximately ten minutes to make these, and what's so great about them is that you can change up the fruit filling in the center to whatever your tastes are (or in my case, whatever you just happen to have on hand). The original recipe was for blueberry crumb bars, and I had every intention to make them true blueberry bars when I started making them.  Really, I did!  In my absentmindedness, I somehow managed to read "4 cups" as "2 cups" so I only bought half the amount of berries that I needed to prepare the recipe.  I was really upset at myself for making such a silly (aka, dumb) mistake, but not upset enough to actually go back to the store to buy more berries (because laziness trumps everything).  I almost scrapped my plans to make these bars and instead make something else with my 2 cups of blueberries, when I remembered that I had a ton of strawberries in my fridge, and that's how these Double Berry Crumb Bars came about!

With my lack of good reading ability aside, these bars came together without any problems, and they're easy peasy to make.  Promise.  Sugar, flour, baking powder and salt are quickly whisked together, and then lots of cubes of cold butter and an egg are cut in with a pastry blender.  Please feel free to use a much larger bowl than I did, because it will make your life a lot easier and your kitchen a lot less messy.  I was set on using my favorite stainless steel bowl which was just a tad smaller than I needed for it to be...this of course led to some flour spillage, so save yourself the trouble and use a bigger bowl than you think you will need.  This process is similar to making pie dough, because chilled butter is being mixed into flour and other dry ingredients, and like when making pie dough, don't go overboard with the mixing.  You'll want to cut in the butter a little more than if you were making pie dough (as in, the mixture should look more crumbly), but you still want to see scattered clumps of butter among the dry ingredients.  Half of this mixture is then pressed into a greased baking pan with your fingers. Don't worry about making this bottom layer perfectly smooth or anything, these bars are supposed to be easy and a little rustic!  After that, the fruit is combined with a little sugar and lemon juice, and cornstarch and dumped on top of the bottom layer of crust.  The remaining dough is then crumbled over the top of the fruit, and the whole thing is then baked in the oven.  

This is totally doable in fifteen minutes.  Promise promise promise.  

Now, these bars only take a few moments to mix up, but they take slightly longer to enjoy.  You gotta let them cool completely before slicing them into squares, otherwise you'll end up with a big fruity mess...which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it.  I highly recommend that you keep these bars in the fridge and slice them once they've chilled; you'll get perfectly clean cut bars that way.  As far as taste goes, well...these were nothing short of amazing, I'll tell you that much.  I'm definitely going to be keeping this recipe in my back pocket all summer long, because I can see myself coming up with so many variations.  I think a peach-blueberry version would be spectacular, and I'm dying to make a cherry crumb bar.  The possibilities with all of summer's fruits are just endless!  For now though, these springy berry crumb bars are just perfect.  They're sweet, buttery, and oh so good.    

Double Berry Crumb Bars
recipe adapted slightly from All Recipes


1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, diced
1 large egg
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.  Spray a 9x13-inch pan with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup of sugar, the flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest.  With a pastry blender, cut in the butter and egg.  The dough will seem very crumbly, but will hold together if pressed together.  

Add half of this dough mixture to the prepared pan and press into an even layer. 

In a separate mixing bowl, stir together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice.  Gently mix in the berries.  Pour the berry mixture in an even layer over the crust.  Crumble the remaining dough mixture over the berry layer.  

Bake for 45-55 minutes, until the crumb topping is a light golden brown. Let the bars cool completely before slicing into squares.  The bars will cut exceptionally well if you chill them in the fridge prior to slicing, so keep that in mind.  Enjoy!

Makes 1 9x13 inch cake, or 24 bars


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