Bring berries together for jammy crumble

Gretchen McKay
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

I picked a ton of blueberries last summer as a tonic for the coronavirus, and much of it ended up in my freezer. Whether they’re still worth eating is debatable — some say you have to use berries within three months — but I think they still taste good and besides, I’m not one to waste the fruits of my labor. To use up the last of them, I decided to make my mother a berry dessert.

She and I share a sweet tooth, along with a love of buttery crusts, so I decided on mixed fruit crumble bars. Unlike a pie, a crumble’s ingredients don’t have to be rolled out, but are simply mixed together in a bowl until they’re — you guessed it, crumbly — and patted into a pan. More of the crumble mixture is then sprinkled on top for a buttery, crispy finish. It doesn’t get much easier.

I used a combination of blueberries and strawberries, and will make another later this summer with the 25-pound box of peaches (!) I ordered from The Peach Truck. If you don’t like almonds, substitute pecans or walnuts or leave the nuts out all together. You also can add a dash of cinnamon.

It helps tremendously to line the baking pan with parchment so you can lift the entire lot out in one fell swoop. But buttering and flouring the pan works, too. However you do it, be sure to let the crumble cool to room temperature before cutting it into squares or they may fall apart.

While considered a dessert, crumble makes a quick and easy breakfast with just the right amount of a sugar rush to start your day. They’re great for a mid-afternoon snack, too. Leftovers can be frozen in a well-sealed airtight container for about two months.

A mix of blueberries and chopped strawberries offers a taste of summer in these easy crumble bars.

Strawberry-Blueberry Crumble Bars

PG tested

For crust and topping

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla or almond extract

For berry filling

  • 21 / 2 cups blueberries
  • 2 cups chopped strawberries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • Juice and zest of 1 small lemon
  • 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper, or prepare it with butter and a dusting of flour.

Prepare crust/topping: On low speed, combine granulated sugar, baking powder, flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer outfitted with a paddle. Add lemon zest, butter chunks, egg and vanilla or almond extract. Beat on low speed until the butter is evenly distributed in pea-sized pieces and the mixture is crumbly. (It should come together when pressed between your fingers.)

Dump about 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Use your fingers or the bottom of a glass to evenly press the dough into the pan, making sure to fill the corners. Set aside while you prepare the filling.

In a large bowl, gently stir together berries, sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice and zest until well incorporated. Spread the filling over the crust, then sprinkle the remaining dough mixture over the top of the berries. Sprinkle toasted almonds evenly on top.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the top is light golden brown and fruit looks jammy. Transfer pan to a rack to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Makes 16-20 squares.

– Gretchen McKay, Post-Gazette