Mixed Berry Crumb Bars
Sunday night, and I’m still in recovery mood from this weekend’s food coma. My Uncle Jimmy was on the Cape for his annual dinner where he wows us with his latest culinary skills, and has us all testing the physical limits of our stomachs. My first year, I did not pace myself and after the happy hour portion of the evening walked right through the screen door. I’ve learned over the past few years it’s a marathon, not a sprint – and only had one glass of wine with dinner, so I could enjoy (and remember) everything. But regardless of whether you sprint it or pace yourself, you will ultimately wake up Sunday morning with a food coma that will leave you moving slower than usual all-day long. You can scroll to the end of this post to get a play-by-play of last night’s food festivities in picture form.
So, this week’s cookie inspiration obviously came from none other than “the godfather” Uncle Jimmy – whose signature touch is adding booze to pretty much all of his dishes. Whether he’s marinating lamb lollipops in white wine, finishing off his black truffle risotto with some Albarino, or soaking some fruit in brandy or some other liqueur all day – if you don’t get drunk off of wine itself, you’ll get a solid buzz just from eating the booze-soaked food. Last night for dessert, we had a mixture of blackberries, blueberries and raspberries that had been soaking in 43 Cuarenta y Tres liqueur over lemon sorbet. Last week I had made some Blueberry Crumb Bars from The Smitten Kitchen for our end-of-season tennis party, which were a big hit. So I decided to take my inspiration from Uncle Jimmy and make a kicked up version of these using blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. I debated soaking these in booze all day – but I’m not sure HR would love it if I got my coworkers boozed up at 9am tomorrow, though I did seriously consider it.
Let’s just say, I took one bite of these and in the words of Uncle Jimmy “forgettaboutit.”
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks)
- 1 egg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- 2 cups fresh blueberries
- 1 cup fresh raspberries
- 1 cup fresh blackberries (halved)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons cornstarch
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 13×9 baking dish with parchment paper and grease with non-stick spray.
Step 2: In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup granulated sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in the salt and lemon zest. Using two forks or a pastry cutter (my recommended approach) blend in the cold butter and egg. I usually cut the cold butter into half tablespoons before attacking it with a pastry cutter. This takes a while, and I usually alternate the pastry cutter and mixing with my hands near the end until the dough is crumbly. Place half of the dough into the prepared pan and press down so it is even.
Step 3: In a separate bowl, stir together the sugar, corn starch, and lemon juice. Fold in the blueberries, blackberries and raspberries until evenly coated. Sprinkle the fruit mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the mixed berry layer.
Step 4: Bake at 375 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.
Holy blueberry. These are “berry berry” good. The lemon zest in the dough is such a nice compliment to the fresh fruit. I usually don’t indulge in Sunday night baking, but tonight I had to allow myself one of these for dessert, despite my food coma. If you decide to just do these with blueberries, you would use 4 cups of blueberries. I found some cranberries in the freezer aisle at Stop + Shop this morning, so I am thinking that I might experiment with a cranberry orange version in the near future. Because my coworkers are messy, I put these squares into muffin paper so they are easy to grab and go.
So, let’s cut to the chase, and get some food porn up in here. First, there’s something you should know about my Uncle Jimmy and Auntie Carol. Technically, they are not related to me by blood. But as you grow up, you learn that you need to supplement your blood relatives with newly adopted relatives. I’ve found that just adding “uncle” before someone’s name has gotten me a bunch of pretty legit new relatives over the past few years. Like Uncle Donnie. You may know him as Donnie Baseball, but to me he’s just Uncle Donnie. I like to casually tell guys on first dates how I once took batting practice off of Uncle Donnie down the Cape – and on a separate occassion had dinner with him and Joe Torre. Also, Uncle Bill, happened to be the CEO of one of the largest consulting firms which I happened to work at right out of college. But I remember Uncle Bill from my younger days when I was a minnow-catcher-extraordinaire at his beach in Chatham. But Uncle Jimmy is by far my favorite of all of my adopted Uncles (Sorry Uncle Donnie + Uncle Bill). Maybe it’s because he’s taught this baking girl how to cook like a pro. Homemade risotto from scratch? Don’t sweat it. Scallops with fresh pesto baked in red peppers? I’ll cook you those in my sleep. Brandy soaked peaches over coconut gelato? Puh-lease, give me a real challenge.
Half of the fun of Uncle Jimmy coming to cook at the Cape is eating the delicious food, but the other half is the pure entertainment of watching him cook. And his sous chef, my Auntie Carol, is never without a glass of vino in hand and a few good stories – like the time Uncle Jimmy told her she wasn’t spontaneous, so she drove the jeep around the backyard of their house and tore up the lawn, just to be spontaneous. Whenever I need a good recipe during the year, I text Uncle Jimmy and he’s always there with a crowd pleaser for me. My friend Caitlin was my guest of honor to come down for this year’s annual dinner. We put her in charge of the risotto (all first-timers get the hour-long job of stirring risotto) and she passed the test.
We started the night with some lamb lollipops with fresh herbs. Oh baby.
We also did some experimenting with artichokes. I had tried to grill some the day before, but they didn’t turn out quite right. So Uncle Jimmy steamed them for an hour in chicken broth, then cut them in half and gave them a little loving on the grill. Nailed it.
My biggest takeaway of the year – you don’t put vegetables in a hot pan to cook them. You start them in a cool pan, put the veggies in with oil, and THEN turn the pan on. That’s the right way to cook veggies. For meat, you put it in a preheated pan.
Auntie Carol made this fresh salad with grilled romaine, hearts of palms, baked bacon, cherry tomatoes and a fresh greek yogurt and lemon dressing – errggghhhmerrrgahhhhddd it was so good. So in true food blogger fashion, I stood on a chair and art directed for everyone to cheers to Uncle Jimmy for another successful dinner. I’m already looking forward to near year.
But I can tell you one way to wake up from a food coma – is to dump a giant bucket of ice water over your head for a good cause. And if you’re anywhere in the Boston area right now, or a Boston College alum, your Facebook feed is probably chock-full-of #ALSicebucketchallenge videos to support ALS awareness, in particular for my fellow Boston College class of 2007 eagle Pete Frates who has been diagnosed with ALS and has such an amazing inspirational story of spreading the word on this disease. You can read about Pete’s story and donate to the cause at his site – http://www.petefrates.com/
I took the challenge from my friend Val, and nominated a few of my fellow BC friends. I brought my friend Dan a fresh baked mixed berry crumb bar when I went to play videographer for his ice bucket challenge tonight. It was well-deserved.
Happy Sunday, hope your case of the Sunday scaries isn’t too bad tonight. Mine are subdued because of some boozy fruit and mixed berry bars.