I have two words for you: SUMMER. BERRIES. AKA little bites of heaven. Visions of plump blueberries, juicy strawberries and tangy blackberries dance in my head each night as I anticipate the next morning’s berry-filled breakfast.
While modern farming techniques have given us the ability to buy berries all year round, I believe that these fruits should be left to the warm weather months. I have eaten one too many pale red, sour strawberries in January to be convinced otherwise. Let’s just leave well enough alone and enjoy these fruits when nature intends!
My long love affair with summer berries began on a Tennessee blueberry farm around age five. Looking for a fun summer activity, my mom loaded my sister and me in our our oh-so-cool Mazda minivan to go blueberry picking. She provided specific instructions that while we could certainly taste the berries, the point was to pick them to bring home. Unfortunately, as soon as I tasted the first juicy blueberry, these instructions were completely forgotten.
As I meandered through the maze of blueberry bushes, I could not stop stuffing my face with the bright blue delicacies. My pace was something like “eat 10, pick 1, eat 10, pick 1.”.Though my mom kept reminding me to actually *save* some berries, it fell on deaf ears. I was all about instant gratification in those days, and was not interested in saving any for later! When we were ready to leave, I rolled up with blue lips, a full (probably upset) belly and a nearly empty three-gallon bucket. Sorry Mom!
While this berry picking adventure wasn’t a success from a production standpoint, it certainly cemented my love of summer berries. My absolute favorite way to enjoy them will always be plain (by the handful.) However, I am always looking for other ways to highlight summer’s flavorful gems. A few years ago, I stumbled across Smitten Kitchen’s Blueberry Crumb Bars which instantly became one of my favorite berry recipes.
I made a few adaptations to the original recipe to make it my own, but the foundation remains the same. Rather than sticking to just blueberries like SK, I incorporate strawberries and raspberries into my bars to bring them to the next level. As the recipe indicates, feel free to use whatever combination of fresh berries you prefer or have on hand. Every berry combo is a great combo! I additionally added some extra flavoring (think cinnamon and vanilla) to the crumble dough which I think provide a little extra OOPMH!
While baking, the crumble and berry layers meld together in the most A-MA-ZING way. Each bite is full of sweet, buttery crust and tangy, gooey berries and it is literal heaven. These fresh, seasonal bars are the perfect treat for a summer cookout or pot luck. They are super easy to throw together and will have everyone begging for more!
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Zest of one lemon
- 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced into chunks
- 1 large egg
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups fresh mixed berries of your choosing (I used blueberries, strawberries, raspberries in this batch. However, use whatever combo you prefer or have on hand!)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons cornstarch
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9×13 inch pan.
- Mix together sugar, flour, baking powder, cinnamon salt, and lemon zest in a large bowl.
- Add in cold, diced butter, vanilla and egg. With a fork or pastry cutter, blend into the dry ingredients to blend together. (I used my hands to incorporate it after using the pastry cutter.) Dough will be crumbly.
- Take out half of the dough and press into bottom of the prepared pan.
- Prepare your berries. If using strawberries, cut into smaller pieces around the same size as the other berries. Make sure berries are cleaned, dry and all stems are removed,
- Stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Gently fold in the berries, trying to avoid crushing them. Pour berry mixture over crust.
- Crumble the other half of the dough over the berry layer so large chunks cover the entire surface.
- Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is light golden.
- Cool completely (1-2 hours), cut into squares and enjoy! Store in an airtight container for one week.