In Minnesota, bars are part of the social glue that holds people together. I don't mean drinking establishments, although those have their place too. What I'm talking about are desserts made in metal pans, cut into squares, and then taken to baby showers, potlucks, book groups, and funerals. The ingredients are usually pretty straightforward: flour and sugar, butter and eggs, chocolate chips and shredded coconut, pie filling and cornflakes.
There is nothing pretentious about bars. They're what you make when you need to feed a crowd. Bars are what you make when you want a dessert than can be eaten out of hand while people mingle. They're what you make when you want to celebrate and when you need to grieve.
Bars are not the dessert you make for the people you want to impress. They're the dessert you make for the people you love.
I made this particular batch of oatmeal streusel blueberry jam bars for a baby shower that I hosted for my sister Rachel. Besides being a lot of fun to spend time with, she's the person I can always turn to for a sensible, down-to-earth reassurance that everything will be okay. She's seen me through rough patches and everyday stresses, from our childhoods through today.
I'm not a parent myself, but I think she's going to be a great one.
These bars come together quickly, store well, and are reliably tasty—the quintessential bar recipe. Since my in-laws gifted us several jars for Christmas, I used Nervous Nellie's Jams & Jellies Wild Maine Blueberry Preserves as the jam filling. I though the blueberries paired especially well with the oatmeal, although the original recipe called for raspberry jam. It seemed like there was an excessive dusting of crust mixture on the top layer when I added it, but most of it was absorbed into the jam layer during baking, and the finished bars weren't too messy to eat out of hand.
Adapted from Williams Sonoma
Yield: one (9-inch by 13-inch) pan of bars
- 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 baking soda
- 1 2/3 cups rolled oats
- 1 1/2 cups blueberry jam or preserves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9-inch by 13-inch pan.
In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Pulse several times, until the mixture forms coarse, pea-sized lumps. Add the oats and pulse a few times until evenly mixed.
Using fingers, firmly press 2/3 of the oat mixture into the prepared pan. Evenly spread the jam over the the top, being careful not to disturb the crust.
Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the layer of jam. Bake for 40 minutes, or until jam is bubbling around the edges and the top is dark golden.
Place the pan on a wire rack to cool completely before cutting. Store tightly covered at room temperature.
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