Food blogs are some of the best places to find culinary inspiration. Magazines and cookbooks aren’t to be overlooked, of course, but when you hear someone you know (or have come to know over the years of writing) raving about a dish, it is the ultimate incentive to try it. I was recently inspired by Joe‘s post on Strawberry-Rhubarb Oatmeal Bars, which sounded summery and looked delightful. With that as a jumping off point, I made a few changes of my own and put together these amazing Berry Oatmeal Crumble Bars.
The base and the topping are made from the same mixture, a slightly sweet, buttery oatmeal dough that turns into a slightly crunchy base and a melt-in-your-mouth tender topping. The dough is simply divided in two after it is mixed. Half is patted in the base of the baking dish and half is sprinkled on top. Large crumbs are always preferable to small ones when it comes to crumble toppings, and there is a simple way to achieve this. Before you sprinkle on the crumble topping, pick up small handfuls of the oatmeal mixture and squeeze it together into clumps. Some of the larger pieces will break up as you sprinkle them onto the bars, but this will ensure that your finished bars are topped with large crumbles, as well as small ones.
It makes a perfect contrast to the rich berry filling, which takes just a few minutes to cook up on the stovetop. I used blueberries and strawberries, but any combination of fresh or frozen berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries, strawberries) will work beautifully. You’ll need to allow a couple of extra minute of cooking time for frozen berries.
Berry Oatmeal Crumble Bars
3 cups fresh or frozen berries (I used 2 c blueberries, 1 c strawberries)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
Crumble and Crust
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (quick-cooking or regular)
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened and cut into 7-9 large chunks
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Filling: In a medium saucepan, stir together berries and lemon juice and cook medium heat until fruit is tender, about 8-15 minutes, depending on type of berries being used (strawberries take longer than other berries, usually).
In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and cornstarch, then stir into fruit mixture. Continue cooking until mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 1-2 minutes, until thick. Scrape berry filling into a medium bowl and set aside.
Crust: Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease a 9×13″ baking pan.
In a food processor (or large mixing bowl), combine flour, oats, brown sugar, butter, baking soda , salt and vanilla extract. Pulse until mixture is thoroughly blended and resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside 1 1/2 cups of this mixture in a medium bowl. Pour remaining crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish, spread evenly and pat down. Place filling in dollops over crust and carefully spread to cover entire surface. Squeeze reserved crumb mixture into large clumps with your fingers and sprinkle evenly over the top of the fruit filling.
Bake until golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
Cut into 20 bars to serve.