Tuesday, September 2, 2008

raspberry breakfast bars

raspberry breakfast bars

We had a decadent weekend in the North Carolina mountains, and I never wanted to come home. The air up there is so delicious and clean, I never realized how cautiously I inhale in New York City, not that you can blame me if you’ve ever gotten a curbside whiff on a humid summer day after a long holiday weekend with no trash pickup.

south carolina peacheswaterfall 1mollywe are totally smitten

But up there, everything is a delight. We hiked, we played with the sweetest Schnauzer there ever has been, we ate proper vinegar barbecue, the best peaches in the world (from South Carolina!) and even hit some stores and a craft fair. And oh, how we cooked. Alex and I get a little hog-wild when we see a kitchen bigger than 60-square feet with not one, not two but three large counters and a grill that resides outside. Like, on a giant porch and everything! It took a mighty amount of restraint to not take a tour of the entire smittenkitchen.com archive, but we did make a good dent in just 72 hours, with the kefta kebabs, dimply plum cake, napa salad with buttermilk dressing, pork tenderloin and noodle salad, grilled eggplant with caponata salsa and even the big crumb coffee cake, updated for late summer with a blueberry filling, made a showing.

Actually, it stole the show. I am currently angling an excuse to make it again. Like the fact that it’s Tuesday and I haven’t had lunch yet.

teardrop tomatoesbarbecueah, small townslate cherries

I did, however, squeeze in a new recipe or two before the weekend, these Raspberry Breakfast Bars packed in a tin as a hostess gift. The recipe is from the Baked bakery in Red Hook, an adorable little place famed for their brownies (more on that later, if you ask nicely) and general awesomeness. They have a cookbook coming out in October but a friend slipped me a copy, and well, yikes. I have to make everything in the entire book. Everything.

crust ingredients
the base, baked

But I’d start with these. I have to giggle at the use of the word “Breakfast” in there, as if that makes them health food. But they do share similarities with granola bars in that oats and cinnamon and brown sugar kind of way, but so much better because they’re homemade and you can use up all of those U-Pick raspberries you’ve been trying to give away.

sprinkling the topping
raspberry crumb bars

One year ago: Hoisin Barbecue Sauce
[New!] Two years ago: Silky Cauliflower Soup, Anchovy-less Caesar Dressing and That Crazy Tuna Salad

Crumbly fruit bars, previously: If you’re looking for something just like this, but less “breakfasty” you might be one of the two people out there (I kid) who have yet to make the Blueberry Crumb Bars. Hurry! Before the blueberries are gone!

So, there’s this, too: My original plan for the hostess gift had been to make the Brown Butter Peach Bars from the Big Sur Bakery, featured in the New York Times last month, because I think we all know by now how I feel about things like brown butter and vanilla beans and peaches, glorious peaches. And you know, I don’t even mind a fussy recipe, in fact, I look forward to a project from time to time. But. BUT. The very first step of this recipe was “Make the peach jam” and people, I just couldn’t do it. (It is followed by two batches of brown butter, one of which is frozen and then cut into a pastry, then a filling, then a topping…) Am I broken? Am I finally cured of my no-recipe-is-too-elaborate insanity? Has anyone else made these or tried them in person? Do you all think I should take a deep breath, step back and make them anyway? I am at an impasse here, and could use your advice.

Elsewhere: Forget the milk and cookies! Over on Parenting.com, I created a slideshow of ten after-school snack recipes, and by “after school snack” I mean “after work” or “It’s two hours from dinner and what can I eat.” Because if you think I stopped craving banana-chocolate tortillas the day I turned 30, well, then you just don’t know me at all. Check it out, and do let me know if you try any of them.

Raspberry Crumb Breakfast Bars
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

These aren’t, as the recipe notes warn, actually “crumb” bars, with the streuselly topping you might see on crumbles or coffee cakes. Instead, they’re more like a raspberry sandwich cookie, yet less sweet than a typical dessert, and more earnest somehow.

I think you could easily swap the raspberries with blackberries.

For the crust and crumb:
1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (190 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 (120 grams) 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, 170 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

For the raspberry filling:
1/4 cup (50 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons (15 grams) all-purpose flour
1 pound (455 grams) raspberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

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.) Butter the parchment.

Put the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until combined. Add the butter and pulse until loose crumbs form.

Reserve 1 1/2 cup of the mixture and set aside. (Note: The book suggests you reserve one cup only. My gut told me that was too little, and I upped it. I wanted to make sure the top of the raspberries were mostly covered, at least for packing purposes, and was glad I had changed it.) Pour the rest of the mixture into the prepared pan and use your hans 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 raspberry filling.

Make the raspberry filling: In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon and flour together. Add the raspberries, lemon juice and butter and use your hands to toss gently until the raspberries are evenly coated.

Assemble and bake the bars: Spread the raspberry 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 two days.


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