I was wanting a bar cookie with fresh fruit in it, since, after all, this is summer. I kind of knew that I wanted a crumbly top on the fruit, but I didn’t want to go through that mess of one recipe for the bottom crust and another for the filling and yet another for the top. I settled on a recipe for date bars from my old Betty Crocker cookbook, but made a few changes to use fresh blueberries, quite a difference from the thick date paste in the original recipe. I personally love oatmeal date bars, but they seem more like a fall treat to me.
The date bar uses one crumb or streusel mixture for both the top and bottom, pressing it into the dish for the bottom crust, but just sprinkling the rest of the mixture on top of the filling. I didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t do it with blueberries, but I wouldn’t be cooking them first, as you do with the dates. The blueberry version turned out just what I wanted, a sandy brown sugar top and bottom with the extra chew of oatmeal, and a juicy blueberry filling. I think they need to be refrigerated both for handling and because a chilled filling is nice in the summer. They can be eaten out of hand or with a fork.
Aside from using a blueberry filling, the only change I made to the crust was to use all butter, instead of a combination of butter and vegetable shortening.
Half of streusel pressed in bottom
Sugared fresh blueberries
Half of streusel on top
Baked until browned and bubbly
Cut in 24 squares
Cool summer squares
Blueberry Oatmeal Bars
Adapted from the “Date Bars” recipe in the Betty Crocker New Picture Cook Book (1961), p. 197.
Preheat oven to 400°; reduce to 375° after 10 minutes baking.
Butter a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.
3/4 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter and brown sugar until blended.
- Add the dry ingredients, except oats, mixing until combined.
- Stir in oats. This will be a crumbly and what I would call a sandy mixture. Just make sure that the butter is evenly distributed.
2 pints fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried, stems removed
1/2 cup white sugar
1 generous tablespoon cornstarch
- Combine sugar and cornstarch.
- Stir in blueberries to coat.
Put it all together:
- Press half the streusel into the bottom of the buttered dish.
- Top with the sugared blueberries.
- Sprinkle the rest of the streusel over the blueberries.
- Bake at 400° for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375° and continue baking for about 20 more minutes. The streusel should be browned and you should see some of the filling bubbling around the edges. I was concerned about using the baking recommendation of 400° for a full 30 minutes. In the original date bar recipe, the filling is cooked to a thick paste first and then cooled. In this recipe, you are cooking the filling in the bars. I was concerned that the streusel could brown too much before the filling was cooked. It’s possible that you could use the lower temperature for the entire time or for a longer time.
Cool on rack, then in refrigerator for about 10 minutes, before cutting.
What other fruits would you try in these bars? I think cherries would be good, if you could Tom Sawyer someone into doing the pitting.
Yet another use for using up that buttermilk you bought for the biscuits. Plus, I just felt like making a loaf of bread. It happened to be on a day when I made another one of those beer-can chickens on the grill—a new family favorite—but there was enough to eat with the white bean stew the next day, too. Now, generally, I don’t like to pile on the starches in a meal, so for me, both bread and beans is a little much, but my husband can handle it, while I preferred to eat a slice smeared with butter for lunch.
This is a soft and kind of sweet bread, because of both the oatmeal and honey, even though the small amount of oatmeal is barely visible. I think the buttermilk is the hidden star, though.
Buttermilk Bread with Oatmeal and Honey
I made the bread in a stand mixer, but you could knead by hand.
1 pkg (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons warm water
1 cup whole buttermilk
1/2 cup whole grain rolled oats
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
about 3 cups bread flour, more as needed to achieve a soft but not sticky dough
- In a small dish, combine the yeast, sugar, and water. Let sit for about 10 minutes, until foamy.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, using a dough hook, combine the buttermilk, oats, butter, and honey.
- Beat in salt, baking soda, 2 cups of the flour, and the yeast mixture.
- Beat in as much of the 3rd cup of flour as needed to achieve a soft, pliable dough. Do not add so much that the dough becomes stiff and dry. When the dough comes together, continue kneading at a higher speed for 5-10 minutes, until the dough holds together around the dough hook.
- Remove the dough, form into a tight ball, and add about 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the bowl. Then turn the dough in the bowl until covered with oil; cover the bowl with a pastry cloth or towel, and set in a warm place to rise. It took a full 1 1/2 hours for mine to double in size.
- I punched down the dough and let it rise a second time in the bowl for about 30 minutes, then I punched it down again and shaped it into a loaf, placing it into a greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan: Shape the dough into a rectangle of 9″ x 15″, then fold over each short end to the middle and roll to a loaf shape. Place seam side down in the baking pan. Let rise for another 30 minutes, until it reaches the top of the pan.
- Preheat oven to 350° during the last rise. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, and then check for a browned crust, and a kind of hollow feeling when tapped. I don’t trust the tapping on loaves in a baking pan. Mine had to bake for closer to 45 minutes to get the desired crust color.
I went through a spell long ago of thickening all sauces with cornstarch because of the foolproof, lump-free results. While fine for Asian or fruit sauces where you prize that translucent, glossy nature of such a sauce, it just isn’t satisfying in both flavor and texture for those meat gravies that you want for mashed potatoes and stews, so I eventually went back to the fat-flour roux for those sauces.
One Thanksgiving in grad school, while I was in the cornstarch mode, I was in the kitchen making the gravy—and it was a huge pot of it—and I made my cornstarch and water mixture for that last step before eating. I poured some of it in, because I wasn’t quite sure how many cups of stock/drippings I had in the pot, and it rose up like one of those grade school volcano experiments and flowed over the sides into the burner and then receded. I stared at it, wondering why that happened, cleared the burner and poured in some more. Same volcanic action. Same confused stare. Then it hit me that I had grabbed baking soda instead of cornstarch. I didn’t call to the living room for help; I just stared some more and wondered what to do. What else could I do? I mixed up the right ingredients and thickened the gravy and we ate it, getting our post-dinner bicarbonate during dinner.
Luckily, it tasted fine, but it may be one reason I often read labels out loud just to confirm to myself what I’m doing.
Featured Image Photo Credit: Storm Crypt via Compfight cc