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Baking the Blues (Berries) Away

August 9, 2010

I kind of had a case of the blahs today, so I decided to put my faith in the power of baking. I’ve always loved to bake — in fact, my first forays into the kitchen were for cookies, cakes, breads, pies — you name it. Something about the combination of butter and sugar always put a smile on my face.

With the berry season nearing its end, I wanted to make something that took advantage of summer’s bounty. Blueberries were on sale at the grocery store today, so this recipe for blueberry crumb bars from Deb at Smitten Kitchen seemed like a perfect fit. Blueberries, lemon and plenty of sugar and butter? Sounded delish!

In a stroke of genius, I thought I’d double the Smitten recipe and leave some in the freezer for my aunt and uncle (they come back this week) and take some home as well. Like most of my kitchen ideas, this worked a lot better in my head than in reality. The bowls weren’t big enough for this doubled-up recipe, so I ended up with a lot of mess. It was totally worth it though — the bars were amazing. Not too sweet, just a little tart, buttery but light and lemony and delicious. Baking comes through once again!

(I’m posting Deb’s original measures, which make one pan of bars.)

– 1-1/2 cups sugar

– 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

– 1 teaspoon baking powder

– 1/4 teaspoon salt

– zest of one lemon

– 1 large egg

– 8 ounces cold, unsalted butter, cut into quarters

– 4 teaspoons cornstarch

– 1 pint blueberries

1) Preheat the oven to 375˚F and butter a 13×9-inch pan.

2) In a large bowl, mix 1 cup of the sugar with the flour and baking powder. Add the salt and the lemon zest.

3) Then add the egg and butter to form a crumbly dough. It was very hard to mix with my spoon (Deb recommended a fork — who knows why I didn’t listen), made more difficult because I didn’t have a ton of room to groove in my bowl. The butter is a little easier to manage if softened slightly, though the dough becomes a little sticker this way.

4) Press half of the dough into an even layer in the pans.

6) In a separate bowl, mix the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, cornstarch and the juice of one lemon.

7) Fold the blueberries into the cornstarch mix. (Deb said in her post that frozen blueberries work just as well.)

If blueberries aren’t available, I think that raspberries or blackberries would work as well. According to Deb, sour cherries or cranberries make a good substitute also.

8) Spread the cornstarch-covered blueberries in an even layer in the pan.

9) Crumble the remaining dough over the top of the blueberries.

10) Bake them for 45 minutes, until the top has browned. Let the crumble cool completely before cutting it into pieces.

The only thing I missed with these bars was a little vanilla ice cream or some whipped cream, but they made a perfect ending to a long day.

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