Tuesdays on the island are usually a little slower. The guests have all left and it’s time to start getting ready for the next group. Most often, I like to use this opportunity to try something new. If it turns out good, it is one less thing I have to do in the upcoming week. If not, well, nobody has to know.
This week I decided to try a recipe for Blueberry Lemon Bars from one of my favorite books, The Bakers Manual. It is full of dependable, basic recipes that are great to use as a springboard for creative substitutions and changes. I think it is a good idea to try a recipe the way it is written the first time so the alterations can be informed ones. After that, the sky is the limit!
Blueberry Lemon Bars
Makes one 9″ by 13″ pan
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lemon juice (about 3 medium lemons, juiced)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp lemon zest
3 cups blueberries
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, oats, salt (because I only had salted butter on hand, I simply omitted the salt and used salted butter) and brown sugar together until well combined. Stir in the melted butter and mix well with your hands. The streusel mix should be crumbly but form clumps when squeezed.
Press half the streusel into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a greased, foil or parchment lined 9″ by 13″ baking pan (I found my one cup measure was a great tool for pressing and forming the streusel crust).
Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes, just until firm. Cool slightly.
Update: I reserved the egg white and beat it with 1Tbsp water to make an egg wash. I brushed with the egg wash the crust after it came out of the oven to make a barrier between the crust and the filling. It kept the crust from getting soggy and I didn’t have to waste the egg white!
Meanwhile, combine the egg, egg yolk, lemon zest, lemon juice, flour and sweetened condensed milk until smooth (I find that if you whisk together the egg and lemon zest and juice first the filling is most uniform. I have ended up with yellow flecks of egg yolk visible when I have just dumped everything in and then mixed it together). Stir in the blueberries. Spread the fruit filling over the crust.
Crumble the remaining streusel over the filling (I did not end up using all of the streusel). Bake for an additional 40 minutes, until the streusel topping is golden and crisp (after the initial 40 minutes, I cranked my oven up to 450 F and cooked an extra 5 minutes to color the streusel nicely but all ovens perform slightly different). Cool until warm over a rack, then refrigerate until cold before cutting into squares.
I really liked how these turned out and I loved that I could make them ahead of time and have them ready at a moments notice. The bars had a lot of crispy crunchy streusel and the blueberry lemon filling really came through. The filling was much easier than lemon curd based fillings that require you to whisk eggs over a double boiler until thickened. I left a little bit of parchment sticking out the sides to help me remove them from the pan and it made it much easier. I just ran a knife along the sides that did not have parchment and lifted it right out of the pan!
I served these after lunch but I think they were most appreciated by the early risers the next day. They made a great handheld breakfast to go along with a hot coffee on a cool morning fishing trip. I am excited to try some different flavor combinations. I would love to try a lemon raspberry, strawberry calamondin or blackberry key lime twist with this recipe.