Monday, April 29, 2013

Raspberry Crumb Bars

This weekend was a blur of activity involving family, friends, presents, and lots and lots of food. Emma Rose was baptized on Sunday (more on that later!) and we had so many family and friends make the trip for the blessed event. My parents and six of my younger siblings drove in from Indiana. My sister Catherine and her boyfriend made the trek from Columbus, Ohio. My older brother Michael, his wife Maria, and their little son Michael II also traveled from Michigan to spend the weekend with everyone. I think it was the largest gathering of my side of the family since Michael's wedding (we were still missing my two little sisters who could not shirk their college studies to join us!). Paul and I felt very blessed to have so many people present to support us and welcome Baby Emma as a child of God.

Speaking of Baby Emma, she has definitely nailed the zombie stare.

In preparation for the reception following Emma's baptism, I was busy in the kitchen (with my helper Matthew by my side) preparing various goodies. We wanted to keep things simple and serve only a few desserts and snacks. One of the items I baked was a simple batch of Raspberry Crumb Bars. An oatmeal cookie base sandwiches a thin layer of tart raspberry filling to create a snack that is not to sweet and delightfully fresh. They are pretty fantastic served chilled from the fridge, at room temperature, or warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Feel free to serve them for breakfast too - the oats make them semi-healthy (at least we can pretend!).

Raspberry Crumb Bars
adapted slightly from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

For the cookie 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) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

For the raspberry filling:
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound raspberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 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 or foil 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 cup of the mixture and set aside. Pour the rest of the 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, about 12-15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let the crust cool. Keep the oven on while you make the raspberry filling.

Meanwhile, 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.

Spread the raspberry filling evenly on top of the cooled crust. Sprinkle the reserved crust mixture evenly on top of the filling. Bake for 35-45 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 carefully lift the bars from the pan and cut into squares. I actually ended up sticking the whole pan in the refrigerator (after the bars had finished cooling) to allow the bars to firm up a bit more to ensure easy cutting and portioning. The bars can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to two days.

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