I was that weird kid who, when offered the choice of a brownie or a blondie, would always choose the blondie. Something about that cookie bar, packed with chocolate chips and toasty nuts, was just more interesting to me than straight chocolate (though I wouldn’t toss a good, fudgy brownie out of bed either. I’m not a monster).
Unfortunately, more often than not, blondies can be underwhelming — either dry and crumbly or doughy and flavorless — so we set out to develop a foolproof recipe for what we consider to be the perfect blondie: a tender, moist crumb filled with deep caramel flavor from brown butter, vanilla and (optional, but oh-so-delicious) bourbon. Then we packed in our favorite mix-ins: chocolate chunks, butterscotch chips and toasted hazelnuts.
These blueberry crumb bars with oats and almonds are a perfect bake sale recipe and our favorite way to use up summer blueberries.
A few years ago while we still lived in Brooklyn, Matt and I belonged to a CSA. If you’re not familiar with it, CSA stands for ‘community supported agriculture’. The gist of it is that you pay in advance for a ‘share’ of what the farm produces.
It helps the farmers because they get money in advance so they can better finance their year, and the customer gets a weekly (or bi-weekly) supply of the freshest, just-off-the-farm produce.
Of course, by investing in the farm’s potential, you also share some of the risks. If there’s a flood, or a blight, or a generally low yield of crop that season, you might not get as many tomatoes as you’d like and you just have to channel your inner hippie and roll with it, man. What’s more likely though, is that you’ll end up with way more of a certain fruit or vegetable than you know what to do with. And that’s when you have to get creative.
There was one week during our CSA that we received more blueberries than I had ever seen in my life outside of a grocery store. It was a huge box of them. We had them on yogurt and on cereal. I made blueberry syrup. Matt made a crumble. And still we had more. And then I made Blueberry Oat Bars with the rest and kicked myself for not making them sooner because they were the best thing ever. They’re not so sweet that you’d feel guilty having one for breakfast but they have that crunchy, nutty topping that is such a treat.
Five-layer magic bars made with coconut, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and toasted pecans held together by condensed milk on a graham cracker crust.
I sometimes have a tricky time starting these posts, and true to form, for this recipe I got stuck on the very first word of the post title. FIVE-layer magic bars. Is it really five layers? Or is it three? Or four? Honesty in cooking is pretty important, right? There are certainly more than (but not MUCH more than) five ingredients, and you do assemble the bars in neat layers, so really, it can be as many layers as YOU think it is. Or you can just make them and not worry too much about it.
We made these to take to a local bake sale last weekend called For Goodness Bake. This is the third year that it has been organized, and each year the proceeds go to a different worthy local cause. This year it was the Green Teens, an offshoot of the Cornell Cooperative Extension which teaches farming, gardening and other food-related skills to local teenagers.