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Berry Oatmeal Crumble Bars

crumble close-up

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.

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  • Joe
    May 21, 2007

    Nic! These look beautiful – I like how you paired the strawberries and blueberries which still mixes the sweet and tart combo. Unlike other recipes, it was nice you did not have to pre-bake the crust first, then fill and bake again.

  • Nicole
    May 21, 2007

    Joe – I agree completely. I love it when you can either bake th filling and crust in one go or can put the filling into a hot crust. It’s waiting for that cool down that kills me!

  • Star
    May 22, 2007

    Nic–I saw this on Joe’s blog and am anxious to try it with fresh rhubarb from my garden. You’ve used both baking “pan” and “dish” in your recipe directions. Did you you glass or metal (just so I get the oven temp right)?

  • Nicole
    May 22, 2007

    Star – I used a pyrex dish for this batch, but for future reference. I tend to use the words “dish” and “pan” interchangably when it comes to baking. I usually get the same results in a glass/pyrex or metal pan, so either can be used. If I think it will seriously alter the result, I’ll try to specify which is better for that particular recipe/

  • Star
    May 23, 2007

    Thanks, Nic. I’ll do a Pyrex at 350 and watch the time.

  • Courtney
    May 24, 2007

    Oh man, I thought these looked good when Joe posted them, and again when you made them. I just made them with blackberries, and they were great! I only made a 1/2 batch, but think I might make a whole batch to take to a bbq Monday.

  • Heidi
    June 4, 2007

    I made these last night with blueberries–really yummy but the top came out more sandy than crumbly. Any tips, Nicole? What did I do wrong?

  • Heidi
    June 5, 2007

    Update–they are still yummy but my guy thinks they are “the best blueberry poptarts in the history of mankind”. LOL! He used to buy a blueberry breakfast bar that Trader Joe’s offers so I think that’s what he means but I wanted to pass that compliment on to you anyway. 🙂

  • Library Lady
    June 28, 2007

    Nicole, these are EVIL–so good that I can’t stop eating them!

    I found a similar recipe in King Arthur Flour’s “Baking Sheet” and saw that they had added an egg to the bottom crust. I tried doing this because the first batch I’d baked HAD been a bit too crumbly, and the crust did hold together better. I also have been subbing oil for butter, and they still bake up into a delicious treat.
    And I solved my obsession with them by taking them to work and letting everyone share them!

    I am going to post a link to this recipe on my blog at some point–with a note on my modifications.Thanks for another great recipe!

  • SusanV
    August 27, 2007

    Nicole, I couldn’t find your email address to write to you, but I wanted you to know that I just spotted your photo and most of this post copied onto someone else’s blog. The address is fishcreekhouse dot blogspot dot com, and the post was written on July 1, 2007. I got word from a friend that she is having trouble with this blogger taking her work, and when I took a look, I recognized your photo. I just thought you should know.

  • jillian
    September 22, 2007

    these were fantastic!! really awesome…onmly thing is i didnt have enough spread to go around but still…lovely! thank you!

  • Jenny
    February 5, 2008

    these were amazing! I’m going to try to make them into a diabetic recipe by using a different crust and splenda instead of sugar! but they were delicious as is!

  • Sophie
    June 20, 2008

    We’d like to invite you to participate in our July berry recipe contest. All competitors will be placed on our blogroll, and the winner will receive a fun prize! Please email me, sophiekiblogger@gmail.com, if you’re interested. Feel free to check out our blog for more details. (Click on my name in the message to visit our blog. 🙂

  • Rose
    July 19, 2008

    What a great summer time treat, hot or cold! I preferred to have the crumble bars cold because I had been sweating my kahoonies off in the kitchen and the idea of anything else hot wasn’t flying; but I served them warm bars to my guests and they loved them. I added a tbsp of yogurt to the top layer crumble batch to help the clumping process and it helped a lot. I was worried because it was so hot in the kitchen and my butter was a little past being softened, so it wasn’t clumping the larger clumps. Thanks for the great recipe! 😀

  • SingerGirl
    March 1, 2009

    It’s cold here today in Texas. Nothing is cozier than baking something and making the trailer all warm and toasty! These bars taste delicious! I tried throwing in a handful of coconut and walnut on half of the topping, and it turned out great! The only disappointment is the bars fall apart. I guess that’s why God gave us spoons! Yee-haw.

  • thestudiouscook
    April 29, 2009

    Hi! these were amazing! They were really close to the Starbucks Blueberry Bar, even better and that’s what I have been looking for! I’m just starting out a blog, please check it out:)

  • Library Lady
    October 13, 2009

    Nicole, I have just made an apple/cranberry version of these and my 14 year old had 2 servings!

    I’m putting the recipe on my blog with my tweaks and a link back to the original recipe here.

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