Waiting and Blueberry Lemon Crumb Bars

It’s your day off, and instead of doing productive things, you sit in a daze and think about what you are going to cook for dinner, bring to a picnic, eat for lunch, whatever. You begin to busy yourself by coming up with a dish. This part is fun, the time go by a little faster; nothing makes the clock hands fly like a little perusing on marthastewart.com or through your favorite food blogs. But then, when you finally decide on the perfect dish, all that’s left is waiting until you get to make it. The clock starts to go by much more slowly. Your fingers itch to rush to the refrigerator and start cooking right away but, oh wait, it’s only 10:00 in the morning... Whenever I find the perfect recipe I just can’t help but turn into a little Veruca Salt…”I want it NOW!”

This is what happened about two weeks ago. It was a lazy Friday, and my day was free with no task but to prepare a dessert to bring to a small picnic get-together that evening. The problem was I already knew what to bring. Days earlier, I stumbled upon a recipe for blueberry crumb bars on Smitten Kitchen and decided that I absolutely needed to make them. It’s blueberry season after all. It only made sense. So I picked up some humungous local blueberries from a nearby farm and the rest of the ingredients. Then it was time to wait.

The minutes meandered by and my mind only thought of those blueberries sitting on the counter just waiting to be made into luscious crumb bars. “Please…cook me now…please.” “Not yet,” I kept saying to myself as I did math in my head, trying to determine the earliest I could make them so that they could still be warm when I brought them to the picnic. I still had 5 hours to wait. Great.

So what do you do while you wait?

I instinctively turned to what I have deemed the cure-all for the ever-boring waiting game: Netflix instant play. Normally I turn to an episode of No Reservations but this time I checked the independent film section and by happenstance, picked a movie that I have since fallen in love with. Though I love to share recipes, I can’t refuse an opportunity to share some cinema recommendations as well, especially when it involves a film that made waiting for blueberry crumb bars a much simpler task. 

The movie was Mary and Max, a claymation/animation flick about a lonely little girl in Australia and a depressed and obese man in New York who form the most unlikely of friendships. I can’t necessarily guarantee you will all like it; it’s a bit out there. But it is bittersweet yet very touching, with both funny moments and sad, and a smashing recipe included for chocolate hotdogs. 

So, as it turned out, in my waiting to make something wonderful, I discovered something else that was just as sweet as those blueberries.

Blueberry Crumb Bars
makes 24 small bars
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

These are an ultimate summer dessert: easy to make while showcasing the wonderful flavors of fresh seasonal berries. I imagine they would be great with other fruits as well but the blueberries were divine and turned into the most wonderful, sticky jam-like filling after cooking. Though you mix the blueberries with lemon juice and sugar to make a sort of syrup, I do recommend resisting the temptation to pour all of the syrup into the bottom crust along with the blueberries. Instead, simply spoon the blueberries overtop, leaving the syrup behind so you don’t get a soggy crust like I did. They still tasted wonderful but weren’t as crisp and crumbly as I had hoped for.

So whatever you end up doing in the time before you get to make these bars, just know that they are certainly worth the wait.

Blueberry Filling
4 cups fresh blueberries
½ cup white sugar
4 tsp. cornstarch
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme

Crust and Crumb Topping
¾ cup white sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
¼ tsp. salt
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 egg
¼ cup toasted slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a 13 X 9 inch baking pan. In a mixing bowl combine the blueberries, ½ cup sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and thyme. Stir until will mixed and set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together the ¾ cup white sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, flour, salt, and lemon zest until well combined. Add the butter and the egg and use a pastry cutter to blend the ingredients until well combined and you have still have pea-sized chunks of butter. Add the almonds and mix them in.

Place half of the crust mixture into the baking dish and press it firmly into the bottom. Spoon the blueberries overtop, careful not to add too much of the liquid. Crumble the rest of the crust mixture overtop the blueberries so that it is evenly distributed. Bake for 50 minutes until the crumb topping is golden brown.

Let cool for at least an hour before cutting so they set. Cut into 24 squares. They are best served just slightly above room temperature but store any leftovers in the refrigerator. They are still really good cold but a quick zap in the microwave will easily make them warm again.