Monday, August 06, 2007

Apple Blueberry Crumble Bars Recipe & The Ups and Downs of My Blueberry Connection


Apple Blueberry Crumble Bars with an oat crust and streusel topping

"Hello?"

"Hi, this is Susan, your blueberry customer who raises sheep."

"Of course. How are you? How many lambs did you have this year?"

My local blueberry supplier recently acquired a small flock of his own, and he loves to talk sheep, but eventually I was able to steer him back to the matter at hand.

"I was calling to see how the blueberries are doing this year."

"You remember that bad freeze we had back in April?" Oh yes.

"Well, things aren't looking too good." Oh no.

"I can put you on The List." I could hear paper fluttering in the background. "I've got pages and pages of people here. You wouldn't believe how many customers have been calling about blueberries. Everybody calls when they open up their last bag from the freezer." Yep, that would be me.

"Um, I think I should already be on The List. I ordered five gallons when I picked up my five gallons last year."

"Oh, then you're probably on it."

"So how many blueberries do you think you'll get?"

"Maybe 50 or 60 gallons if I'm lucky." This was not sounding good.

"And how many do you normally get?"

"I should be getting 400. Last year I got 250, though the smaller harvest meant the berries were all large and juicy." I remember. "During the year I barter. When I buy something from someone or have them do work for me, they say, 'Just pay me in blueberries.' At this point I'm not even sure I'll have enough to pay them all." This was just getting better and better.

"If you find somebody else selling blueberries, I'd buy them." Great. Like who?

Then we went back to talking about sheep, and the conversation ended with him extending an invitation to come over one day soon for a lunch of homegrown lamb enchiladas made with chiles from last year's garden and corn tortillas from his own corn, served up with a salad of freshly picked lettuce.

"This isn't just one of those off-the-cuff invitations," he assured me. "This is real. I can't find anybody around here to eat this stuff with me." Okay, so maybe all was not lost—just my year's supply of berries.

The first summer I spent in Missouri, I planted a giant garden that provided me with, among other things, an enormous number of cucumbers, and I was determined that not a single one should go to waste. (This was before I kept ravenous, veggie loving chickens, which allows me to be a lot lazier and not feel guilty about it.)

I remember asking a friend if she thought I should go ahead and put up more than the 36 jars of dill pickles I already had stashed in a cupboard in my studio/office.

"You might as well. You may not get any cucumbers next year."

"Really? Why?" Was there some big fatal cucumber blight predicted that I didn't know about? "What's going to happen next year?"

"I have no idea. Anything could happen. You never know what could go wrong."

To a newish gardener who was still glowing from recent success and hadn't yet had many natural disasters befall her bounty, total crop failure seemed impossible, not to mention totally unfair.

Twelve Missouri farm years later, I understand completely.

Blueberries are in season in many places right now. If you find someone selling them, buy them. Just be sure to buy enough for next year, too.


One of the nicest things about blueberries is that they freeze beautifully, so you can easily enjoy them, and these bars, all year long. You don't even have to spread them out in a single layer on baking sheets like you do for raspberries or blackberries. To freeze blueberries, just fill up a zipper freezer bag or plastic container and toss them into the freezer.

An outing to a pick-your-own farm is a wonderful way to spend the day with kids and take home some delicious bounty.
PickYourOwn.org is a great resource for finding pick-your-own farms in your area and even includes listings in other countries.



Farmgirl Susan's Apple Blueberry Crumble Bars
Makes on 9"x13" pan — 12 to 16 large bars

**Click here to print this recipe**

Some of you will recognize these as a variation of the Blueberry Bonanza Breakfast Bars I created last summer, when I did get my five gallons of fresh blueberries. In September I made a peachy blueberry version, and a friend I shared some with has been raving and hinting about them ever since.

A few months ago I wangled her into leaving the craziness on her farm to come spend the day giving wormer shots to the 91 sheep on mine, bribing her with the promise of large quantities of kitchen garden bounty and homemade baked goods. I even sent her home with frozen pizza. (I was the one who ended up with the best present of all that day, though, as this was the friend who brought Whitey the fertilized eggs.)

"Did you make any of those blueberry peach things?" she asked when she called to say she was on her way.

"I couldn't. I didn't have any peaches. But I made you some with apples and blueberries instead."

"That sounds. . . interesting." I took this to be nice talk for Yuck.

When she arrived I offered her one of the experimental apple blueberry bars as an energy boost before we got to work, and after two thoughtfully chewed bites she turned to me and said, "I do believe these taste better than the ones with peaches."

Of course the best thing about these bars is that adding the apples makes my now precious blueberries go a lot further.

Don't let the three separate layers in this recipe scare you away; they come together quickly and you only need to dirty up two mixing bowls. With the oatmeal crust and streusel topping, these bars remind me of an eat-with-your-hands cross between apple blueberry pie and apple blueberry crisp.

They can be enjoyed any time of day: put one in a lunchbox, pack some on a picnic, or munch on one in the car on your way to pick up the kids at school. You can cut them into squares, wrap them up individually, and freeze them for an instant snack.

For a comfort food dessert of the highest order, cut into the pan while they're still warm and gooey and serve them up in bowls alongside scoops of vanilla ice cream and topped with a handful of fresh blueberries.

My blueberries are large and not super sweet. If yours are the smaller and sweeter wild variety, you may want to use a little less sugar in the middle layer. Choose your favorite kind of apple; a combination of tart and sweet is very nice.

Feel free to substitute whole wheat flour for some or all of the white flour in the crust and/or the streusel topping. To give them another healthy boost, you could mix some chopped walnuts or almonds or pecans into the topping.

As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients; they really do make a difference. Even organic sugars are becoming mainstream.

Bottom Layer
2 cups organic old-fashioned oats (not quick oats)
1 cup organic all-purpose flour
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 Tablespoons (1½ sticks/6 ounces) organic butter, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Top Layer
1 cup organic all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz) organic butter or natural vegetable oil sticks such as Earth Balance

Middle Layer
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
3 generous cups unpeeled chopped apples (about 5 small/19 oz)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (1/2 teaspoon if pre-ground)

For the Bottom Layer:
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 9" x 13" pan. (I love my  Chicago Metallic commercial bake and roast pans and these heavy duty USA Pans are really nice too.)

In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the melted butter and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Press this mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan with your fingers. I also use the bottom of a stainless steel measuring cup to help make the crust flat and even.

For the top layer:
Place the flour, brown sugar, and butter in a small bowl and use a fork, pastry blender, or your fingers to combine until the mixture resembles large crumbs (some pea-sized clumps are okay). Set aside.

For the middle layer:
Place the blueberries and apples in the bowl you mixed the bottom layer in. Add the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg and toss until well combined.

Sprinkle the top layer evenly over the fruit mixture. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake until the top is golden and looks "dry," but the edges aren't too brown, about 25 to 35 minutes.

Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, with ice cream if desired. Store leftover bars in a cool place or refrigerate. They may also be individually wrapped in plastic and frozen.

Still hungry? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

© FarmgirlFare.com, the fruit filled foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares photos & stories of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

26 comments:

  1. Susan, I hate to be the first poster today and be negative, but will you stop with the sweet-tooth recipes and food-porn pictures on a Monday! I have had a hard day and quite frankly, this sort of torture could ruin a friendship given that you are c.6,000 miles away and there is zero chance of you popping round with any.

    Yours, desperately in need of sugar ..XX

    ReplyDelete
  2. "might not get any next year" is so true. I have a postage stamp backyard garden in St. Louis city, but we always raise tomatoes, basil, peppers, etc.--the first year, we had that same big crop of cucumbers, and enough tomatoes to make chili sauce and spaghetti sauce and stewed tomatoes and etc. The next year, tomatoes were salad only--not enough to can. It fluctuates tomato-wise. But cucumbers? I've never managed to grow a single one since that first bumper crop. That would be 8 years of failure.

    When all my plants withered and died (AFTER the first batch withered and died), I told Mike, "not tryin again. I'll put more tomatoes back there instead." Or more jalapenos. Those nightshade plants never do me wrong.

    I will say that I am super glad we went strawberry picking last year and made more than enough jam for this year too, because there weren't any berries to be had for love or money this spring.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello? Oh, excuse me, there's a recipe here, for a minute I thought I'd hit the wrong site. But hey, Farmgirl does cook and the blueberries look gorgeous. (Even the ones in the store are pricey this year, $3 a pint is the lowest when usually they get down to $2 for two or three or even four weeks.) Love the idea of blueberry and apple. May I put in an order, please? BTW no wonder they're good, didn't I count 2 1/2 sticks of butter?!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Man oh man I wish I hadnt read this while on my lunch hour. These look fantastic! And I don't even really care for blueberry.

    ReplyDelete
  5. hmm looks delicious and perfect for breakfast, I hope I can try it out soon!

    ReplyDelete
  6. My family asked me to stop making the blueberry bars as they are too good and they eat too many and are getting too fat.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Blueberry's are my sweeties all time favorite food. Aside from that his favorite dessert is Apple Crumble.

    And you have gone and put the two together. He will be in heaven!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. The bars are always a hit at home, the office and with the Boys in Blue (or beige as it is here).

    You did not note which kind of apple you used, I think. And, as you know, that can be an important issue. Granny Smiths, maybe? Do tell!! And my sympathies for the lack of b-berry goodness this year...

    ReplyDelete
  9. Wow these look wonderful and would go great with my pints an pints of blueberries. Do you know if the bars freeze well?

    ReplyDelete
  10. I printed your recipe & can't wait to try it next year. Blueberries are all gone at the pick-your-owns here, but I can't wait to take our homeschool group blueberry & apple picking (they overlap here sometimes) and make these delicious treats!!!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hey Susan - I'm all the way in Florida and our blueberries supply was nil this year too. Hmmm, I wonder what's up? Let's hope it's all fixed by next year! I made the Apple Blueberry bars this evening - YUM-MY! I can't wait to surprise my girls with them tomorrow morning! Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I have a such a weakness for blueberries...and for crumb bars! The two together equal my kind of treat. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  13. I am just about to make these. Sound so good. Like your recipes a lot.

    Pamela

    ReplyDelete
  14. The blueberry treat looks simply incredible. This may seem silly, but how do you freeze blueberries to make such great desserts year round? We have an abundance at the farmers' markets in NYC and I would love to know the secret to year round berry baking.
    Thank you in advance!
    Lindsay

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi B,
    Didn't mean to torture you so. Wish I could send some over. Or better yet, deliver them in person.

    Hi Bridgett,
    Yeah, it's always a crap shoot gardening in Missouri. You certainly have to plant way more than you could possibly eat in order to get enough to eat.

    Good going on the strawberries last year. I read last spring about one Missouri pick your own farm that lost something like 2/3 of its crop to that freeze.

    Hi Alanna,
    Silly girl, you're not supposed to count up all the sticks of butter in a recipe. Sheesh. : )

    Hi Gina,
    Yeah, it's hard to read about and look at pictures of food when you're hungry--which I always seem to be doing!

    Hi Valentina,
    It's a bit of a splurge for breakfast, but certainly better than a lot of traditional "breakfast" foods. And if you add a scoop of ice cream, think of all that extra calcium. : )

    Hi Barbaba,
    LOL, I love it. Thanks for letting me know!

    Hi Sage Cat,
    Sounds like this recipe ought to earn you some serious brownie (er, crumble?) points!

    Hi Laura,
    So glad you and the boys are enjoying their blueberry bars.

    I'm pretty sure I used Pink Lady apples, which are a cross between Golden Delicious and Lady Williams (click here to read more about them) because that's what I had on hand. They're small and very sweet and have a wonderful flavor. I'd bought them for eating but they baked up real nicely.

    I almost always use Granny Smith for apple pies because I like the tart flavor and the fact that they are a firmer apple--I'm not a fan of mushy apple pies. But I think a sweeter and slightly softer apple works better in these bars--both in flavor and texture. You don't really want hard bites of apple floating around in what is essentially blueberry jam. These held their shape but were nice and soft.

    Oh, and they were organically grown of course!

    Hi Anonymous,
    Yes, all three variations of these blueberry bars freeze beautifully. I wrap individual bars in plastic wrap and then put them all in a freezer zipper bag. You could also freeze the entire pan if you wanted. The 9"x13" baking pans I use come with super handy plastic snap-on lids which makes freezing whole carrot cakes, etc. (as well as storing them in the fridge or even on the counter)so easy.

    Hi Happy Campers,
    Sounds like a great plan. Sorry you have to wait until next year to implement it! : )

    Hi April,
    Hope your girls enjoyed their morning blueberry treat. Thanks so much for taking the time to write and let me know you you had success with the recipe.

    Hi Belinda,
    Yeah, I love nearly all berries, but there's something about blueberries. . . : )

    Hi Pamela,
    Thanks so much. Hope you enjoyed them.

    Hi Lindsay,
    Start stocking up on blueberries right now because there is no secret to freezing them. You don't have to lay them out in a single layer on baking sheets like you do for raspberries or blackberries. Just fill up a zipper bag or plastic container and toss them into the freezer. The individual berries will freeze without turning into one big clump, so you can simply scoop out as many as you need whenever you like. Now go buy those berries! : )

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'm really sorry to hear about your blueberry situation. This is a good story though, with an important message.

    That breakfast bar recipe is very versatile. I've been making it with different fruits all year round. I've even subed cream cheese for butter in the top layer and that was very good!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm sorry about the lack of blueberries this year, but I recently moved to Nicaragua and there's NO blueberries here EVER! Talk about craving what you can't have! Thanks for the pictures, they'll have to satiate my blueberry need for now (and they're calorie free!).

    ReplyDelete
  18. Delicious! We picked our own berries last Sunday in upstate NY. I'm not sure what a normal harvest is like but the farm we went to--Bowmans' North in Ballston Spa--was just bursting with berries. We picked several quarts in short time. Sunday I made blueberry buckle. But yesterday, oh yesterday, I made your blueberry breakfast bars. I opted for peaches because we received a quart in our CSA share this week. The bars are amazing. Our nine-year-old-don't-make-me-eat-fruit son even ate one and said it was quite good. (That is pretty high praise from a kid that doesn't even eat fresh corn on the cob.) The batch is half gone in 24 hours.

    I can't wait to make more of your recipes.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I printed this recipe & tucked it away for a special day. Made the bars tonight & my husband thinks they're amazing! I made them to serve at a playdate tomorrow morning, but I'm afraid between our family members, we'll eat it all tonight. Thanks for your recipe!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I made these last night and I feel like they were a little piece of Heaven! Thanks for the recipe!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Love your site, and have used quite a few of the recipes this summer! When we have something fresh, I've been in the habit of checking for something here first for a good recipe, before consulting the usual cookbooks. Just made these bars without the blueberries, since it's fall and I have a big bag of apple "seconds" from the apple farm we went to last weekend- yummy, a really great cobbler/ crisp like dessert!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hi Susan,

    I'm writing from Saratoga Springs, NY and wanted to share that these Apple Blueberry Crumble Bars are outstanding. Thank you for sharing the recipe which has been dubbed a "redo" in my household.

    I'm enjoying your blog very much. I can't wait for our garden produce this summer so I can try more of your amazing recipes. Thanks!

    Jess G

    ReplyDelete
  23. Could you recommend how to do the middle layer with just apples?
    The blueberries are long gone but I have 50lbs of apples & I have loved the recipes I have tried from your site so I came here first!
    {by the way.... your bran muffin recipe was SUCH a relief to find after years of searching for a "true" bran muffin!!}

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi C,
      I love the idea of making these bars with just apples. Thanks for the inspiration - I'm definitely going to try it. I would just use an extra 2 cups of chopped apple in place of the blueberries. The sugar, etc. ratio should still be okay.

      So glad you're enjoying the bran muffins!

      Delete
    2. Our local store had pears on sale so I did apple pear combo :) Yummy! I switched the white sugar for brown sugar and a little honey in the middle layer.
      I was thinking about increasing the honey in the middle layer and that honey might work to replace some of the sugar and butter in the bottom layer... do you think that might work? We really enjoy honey, cinnamon & just a little brown sugar with apple/pear combo {that's how I make my crisp/crumble}
      Thank you so much!

      Delete
    3. Apples and pears sounds great! And so does honey - I've been trying to incorporate honey into a lot of my baked goods lately. I bet more in the middle layer (in place of some or all of the sugar) would work fine.

      With the bottom layer, you might start with a half cup of honey and see what happens. Not sure if you want to decrease the butter, though I'm thinking you suggested it in order to offset the liquid of the honey. Another option would be to use whole wheat flour (I find that white whole wheat flour works best in baked goods), as it will absorb more liquid than white flour, so it may offset the wetness from the honey.

      Thanks for the feedback and delicious ideas. I need to find some nice apples (and pears) and make a few new versions of these bars! :)

      Delete

January 2013 update: I know word verification is a big pain, but it's the only way I can stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I get every day. I don't want to require commenters to be registered Blogger or Open ID users because I know many of you aren't. Thanks so much for your understanding!

Hi! Thanks for visiting Farmgirl Fare and taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I especially love hearing about your experiences with my recipes. Comments on older posts are always welcome!

Please note that I moderate comments, so if I'm away from the computer it may be a while before yours appears.

I try my best to answer all questions, though sometimes it takes me a few days. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they fall through the cracks, and for that I sincerely apologize.

If you're waiting for a reply to your comment and have a Blogger profile (it's free to create one) you can check the NOTIFY ME box that is below and receive all follow up comments to just this specific post via email.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy your e-visits to our farm!