Berry Crumb Bars
As I sit here typing, I have a box of tissues and a big, neon glass of Berocca next to me. I would never buy the stuff but I found it in our sparsely populated medicine drawer alongside dissolvable aspirin (where have you been all my life?) and decided to give it a go. I never knew how much I loved those little tablets that disappear into a surprisingly tasty effervescent citrus drink. But I do. I love them. Somebody hide the aspirin!
Being sick hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the finer things in life. We’ve gone out the last two nights in a row (to here and here, in case you’re wondering), and this morning I even felt well enough to crawl out from beneath my pile of used tissues to take the dog for a walk before my morning tea.
I realized my eyes – let alone my brain – couldn’t stay focused on a simple newspaper article. So I decided to do something that didn’t involve too much thinking, where I didn’t have to recall the reasons behind the historical significance of the Pope’s trip to England or even attempt to get my head around the fact that some Afghan girls pass as boys until marriage.
I decided to make blueberry crumb bars. Ever since I saw them on the indomitable Smitten Kitchen, I knew that one day they would be mine. I looked briefly at the recipe, and decided they seemed pretty indestructible. Just in case I swapped the cornstarch for the baking powder or the sugar for the salt. I’m not saying that I usually do those kinds of things. But today, well, let’s just say, today seemed like the perfect day to make something forgiving and rewarding.
With blueberry crumb bars in mind, I waddled down to the supermarket, tissues in pocket, to buy some frozen blueberries. Why frozen? Because it’s not blueberry season here…well, maybe it is but it seems like it’s never blueberry season in Australia. After all, they were only introduced in 1979 and seriously? I am not going to pay $6 for a half-pint of pale imitations of what a blueberry should be. To complete my rant and maybe garner some pity, which, today, I’m totally up for: I have not eaten a fresh blueberry in over a year. How am I coping? Apparently not so well. End tangent.
So I grabbed a box (yes, here they come in boxes) of frozen blueberries and ended up getting 2 pints of strawberries that were on sale as well. While in the frozen foods section, something caught my eye, and, since the sight of overpriced, underwhelming blueberries had sent my feverish little head into a sea of self-pity, I got ice cream, too. Which I will be having for lunch.
Funny, all that time at the supermarket and not once did it cross my mind to make a nice pot of chicken soup.
Anyways! Back at the homestead, I turned on the oven, turned up my therapist and got to work on the blueberry-strawberry crumb bars. Though I felt like I generally followed the recipe at the time, I did change some things besides adding strawberries. I actually ran out of cold butter (the horror!) for maybe the first time ever (but don’t worry, there’s more in the freezer) so I replaced the missing tablespoon or so with oil. I also don’t own a pastry cutter, so I used my hands to mix the egg and butter into the flour. This probably resulted in a less crumbly crumble, but I don’t mind. And, as I only have one lemon left (I’m a failure! And I haven’t had blueberries in a year!) I used its zest but skipped the juice. I used a 10″x10″ pan rather than the called for 9″x13″. I doubled the salt (obviously) and ended up baking it for 70 minutes instead of 45. This last change may have been because I accidentally baked them at 350°F/180°C instead of 375°F/190°C. Was that it? Oh, wait. Right. Then there was the part where I completely forgot to add the 1/2 cup of sugar to the fruit. I only realized this when I set about copying the recipe below. I blame everything on the cold.
So despite all the minor and less so tweaks and mistakes, and my serious case of someone just give me a hug and blow my nose, please, how did they turn out?
Delicious. So delicious that I declare these bars a winner despite my severely obstructed sense of taste, my leaving out a key ingredient, and their ungainly appearance, which I forgive them for. After all, we all have those days, don’t we? I might just have to make them again when I’m not having one of them.
BERRY CRUMB BARS
Adapted bastardized from Smitten Kitchen, who got it from AllRecipes. Makes between 25-36 bars depending on pan size. I’ve left the original recipe below, with my changes and errors in italics. P.S. Francesco says he’s glad I left out the sugar in the fruit, as it contrasts ever so slightly with the sweet base and topping, and I couldn’t agree more.
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups flour
1 cup cold butter (2 sticks/8 ounces/225 grams), chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt (I thankfully doubled this)
Zest and juice of one lemon (I didn’t use the juice and didn’t miss it)
4 cups fresh blueberries (I used half strawberries, chopped up, and half frozen blueberries)
1/2 cup white sugar (I forgot to add this…)
4 teaspoons cornstarch (corn flour for you Australians)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch pan. (I used a 10×10 brownie pan and got 25 thick bars. You could make it in any shape pan you want.)
In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.
In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice (if using). Mix in the berries. Sprinkle the berry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer. (To achieve a truly great crumb, I recommend squeezing the dough in your hands and plopping it down over the fruit. I forgot to do this, which is why my bars aren’t so crumbly.)
Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. (I baked them for an extra 20-25 minutes.) Cool completely before cutting into squares. (Trust the recipe on this one. I couldn’t wait and my first one ended up a big pile rather than a neat bar. Plus, as most baked goods, they are SO much better the next day. RESIST!)