I am not a baker. Sure, I've pulled out a few decent items, but I have this problem. I like to change recipes to fit my current mood/ingredients on hand/healthy kick/laziness. This works great when you're throwing together a meal; not so much when you're baking. Even some of the items I've blogged about aren't anything to be proud of- my blackberry cobbler was plain, rhubarb should probably never be added to muffins, and my pear tartlets were certainly "rustic."
Case in point.
Usually, I'm just baking for fun- to use up some pantry ingredients, or to satisfy a sweet tooth. But sometimes, a special occasion calls for a special recipe- and that's when I know to put down my random creativity to follow a recipe. To a tee. Enter: Smitten Kitchen's Blueberry Crumb Bars. When a blog recipe creates 464 comments (to date), you follow it.
Blueberry Crumb Bars
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1/4 tsp. salt
Zest + juice of one lemon
4 c. fresh blueberries (I used 2.5 pints)
1/2 cup sugar
4 tsp. cornstarch
Alright, so I kind of lied. I DID follow this recipe, almost exactly. But my shock over those TWO sticks of butter somehow had me using 1/3 whole wheat flour and 1/3 rolled oats, and substituting a flax egg for the real thing. Did it make these bars healthy? No way. I think it appeased my inner healthy baker for .04 seconds though.
First things first. Preheat oven to 375. As with many recipes, combine your dry ingredients- 1 cup sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest (consider it dry for these purposes).
I zested my lemon right into the bowl. Choose a largish lemon and get all the zest you can- the lemon in this recipe takes it up that extra notch, so the lemon-ier the better.
Next, add your (flax) egg and cold cubes of butter (I precut the butter as much as possible to make incorporating it into the flour easiest). The incorporation can be done any way you prefer- I like to use my hands to rub the butter into the flour, but on a hot summer night in my steamy kitchen, this probably wasn't the best idea. You're going for a grainy texture, and hot butter can lead to a greasy one.
Divide the dough in half and scoop half of it into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Pat it down until you create an even layer that covers the entire bottom of the pan. My dough was extra sticky because of the heat, making this process very difficult. Be patient, and eventually it will all even out. I stuck the pan into the fridge as I prepared the filling, in order to prevent further meltage.
To make the filling, combine the second serving of sugar, the lemon juice and the cornstarch in a medium bowl. Whisk until the mixture is free of any lumps. Nobody wants to bite into a starch ball.
Next, add your blueberries (rinsed, and any large stems removed). Carefully mix until each berry is coated in the cornstarch mixture. Then add the berries to the pan, on top of the prepared layer of dough.
Finally, crumble the second half of dough mixture over the top- try to create a somewhat uniform sprinkle, avoiding large clumps or empty spaces.
Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. I started checking mine around 40 minutes- every oven is different. The berries should be bubbling and the top layer of dough should spread and become slightly toasted (light brown). Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before slicing.
Or, if you wanted to serve this warm as a cobbler-type dessert over ice cream, simply scoop out a portion.
Personally, I prefer the soft bite of the buttery dough in conjunction with a more jelly-like berry substance, so I let them cool completely and then refrigerated overnight before cutting into them.
I sliced them into 24 large squares (8 x 3), but the original recipe suggests 36 smaller rectangles (8 x 4 bars). It's up to you, but honestly, if you cut them small you're just going to eat two. Don't fool yourself.
While the bars weren't as pretty as the pictures on the original blog, they were still one of the most beautiful baked items I've ever made. I actually enjoyed the slight nutty flavor and chew that the whole wheat flour and oats gave the crust, but don't feel obligated to toss in those 2 tablespoons of health. When you've got two whole sticks of butter on your side, you can't go wrong. Take advantage of blueberry season and make these for your next special event- and yes, a Friday night at home is always a special event.