Blueberry Breakfast Bars

blueberry crumb bars

Blueberry Breakfast Bars

I have been a fan of Smitten Kitchen ever since I tried her Breakfast Apple Granola Crisp.  This woman has a way with breakfast.  Some people aren’t into breakfasts or can get away with a piece of toast or a boiled egg and coffee—I am not one of those people.  I really like having something yummy to look forward to when I wake up.  And due to the lack of coffee compatibility, savory is not my style.  I love a sweet and wholesome breakfast item that will hold me over until past 11:30 so that I don’t get grumpy and hungry at the same time as the kids.  Bonus points if I can eat it with one hand while spooning oatmeal or hitting microwave buttons or whatever else the kids’ breakfast requires.  (If you know my son, you’ll know that this also involves being a spotter while he climbs on top of the counter to browse and pick his own breakfast. Three is such an interesting age.)  So that’s where these bars come in. They hit all of my breakfast requirements and the kids loooooove them (which means they fulfill my daughter’s requirement of picking up everything and smashing it into her mouth or throwing it on the floor.  Despite the blueberry mess on the face, they rarely go on the floor –a high compliment from a one-year old.).

I stumbled upon this recipe when I was looking for a way to make my favorite Raspberry Coconut bars into a healthy breakfast version (who am I kidding? The only thing holding either one of them together is butter).   The SK version calls for fresh raspberries and that wasn’t gonna happen so I scoured her comments for a blueberry variation.  All I could glean was that multiple people had failed with blueberry.  Now that’s a challenge if I ever heard one!  I incorporated my experience from the raspberry dessert bar recipe plus a technique from my blueberry pie recipe (cook the fruit), plus an idea from my raspberry coffee cake (remove some topping before you add the leavener) that made these a winner.  The last one is critical or the bars will have an off, metallic taste from the baking soda.  I have tested this over and over with variations and the main hints that will get you close to perfection are:  cook the bottom crust darker than you think you should, salt your fruit filling, cook it until some berries pop, and use no more than ¼ inch of filling.

Note: If you don’t have dark brown sugar, just add 1 tbsp molasses for each 1/2 cup of granulated or light brown sugar.

Note #2:  This can be made with fresh or frozen blueberries, part fruit and part seedless raspberry jam, or raspberries.  If using raspberries, you may have to adjust the sugar level to account for the tartness.  I’ve made it with frozen raspberries and am not a fan of the seeds.

Blueberry Breakfast Bars

Adapted from SK’s Raspberry Crumb Breakfast Bars

For the crust and crumb:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 1/4 cups rolled oats

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

For the fruit filling:

1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tsp salt

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 C fresh or 1 pound frozen blueberries,

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tbsp molasses

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Make the crust and crumb: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch glass or light-colored metal baking pan. Put a long piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan, letting the parchment extend up the two short sides of the pan and overhang slightly on both ends. (This will make it easy to remove the bars from the pan after they have baked.)

Put the flour, brown sugar,  1 Cup oats, salt, and cinnamon in a food processor. Distribute the butter evenly across top and pulse until loose crumbs form about 10-12 one second pulses.

Reserve 1 1/2 cup of the mixture and set aside with  remaining ¼ C oats.

Add baking soda and baking powder to food processor and pulse until combined.

Pour the crust mixture into the prepared pan and use your hands or the back of a large wooden spoon to push the crust into an even layer at the bottom of the pan. The crust should touch the sides of the pan. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let the crust cool. Keep the oven on while you make the filling.

Make the filling: In a medium saucepan, stir all filling ingredients together over medium heat.  Cook for 10-15 minutes or until some blueberries begin to pop and the filling has thickened.

lemon juicer

zest first, then juice with a strainer to avoid seeds

Assemble and bake the bars: Spread the fruit filling evenly on top of the cooled crust. Sprinkle the reserved crust mixture evenly on top of the filling.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating the pan every 15 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the filling starts to bubble around the edges.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then cut into squares and serve. The bars can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.

blueberry bars

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