Blueberry

Blueberry-Oatmeal Crunch Bars

Blueberry-Oatmeal Crunch Bars

Blueberry-Oatmeal Crunch Squares

Year 2002. We are in Los Angeles, just moved here, newly married. One day our family friend Jim Porter walks into our apartment holding a plate with something looking absolutely delicious. Jim made oatmeal bars for us! The bars were so good. Soft, full of oats, with luscious preserves spread in-between.

I loved the bars so much that I asked  Jim for the recipe. He graciously shared it with me. Jim’s recipe is very similar to what I later found in William’s Sonoma baking book, and the only slight difference is the ingredient amounts. I will share one of those recipes with you.

Oatmeal

Sadly Jim is no more. It’s been years. But every time I bake these bars, I remember Jim proudly handing me that plate with his homemade creations and my face beaming at the prospect of savoring them with a cup of tea. Thank you, Jim, for the sweet memories. And your bars were the best!

Blueberry-Oatmeal Crunch Squares

Blueberry-Oatmeal Crunch Bars
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Baking

You can also sprinkle walnut chunks on top of the preserves, if you wish. They go particularly well with apricot preserves. Also, you can serve these bars warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Delicious!

Ingredients:

1 +3/4 cups all-purpose flour (9 oz / 280 g)
1  +1/2 cups (4+ 1/2 oz /140 g) old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup (7 oz /220 g) firmly packed golden brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (8 oz / 230 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 3/4-inch (2-cm) pieces
1 cup blueberry jam (can substitute any preserves/jam you have, such as cherry, strawberry, raspberry, apricot, etc.)

Method:

Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 325F (165C). Butter a 9-inch (23-cm) square baking pan.

In  a large bowl, stir together the flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon until blended. Using a pastry blender or a knife, cut in the butter until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of small peas. (If you have a food processor you can combine the flour, toast, and sugar and plus 2 to 3 times until blended. Then add butter and pulse 8-10 times until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of small peas.)

Remove 2 cups of the crumb mixture and set aside. Press the remaining crumb mixture into the bottom and 1 inch (2.5 cm) up the sides of the prepared pan.

Drop tablespoons of the jam evenly over the crust, then spread it gently with the back of the spoon to cover the crust. Sprinkle the reserved crumbs evenly over the jam layer. Do not press onto the sprinkled crumbs.

Bake until the top is lightly browned, about 50 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool until firm, about 2 hours. Using  a  large, sharp knife, cut into 25 small squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Blueberry-Oatmeal Crunch Squares

Fresh Berry Pavlova

Friends, thank you for taking the time to watch the first episode of AZ Cookbook on AZRU TV. Some of you watched it even without understanding a single word I said:), but were kind enough to leave words of encouragement in their comments. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. For those of you who missed my post about that episode – I demonstrated how to make Pavlova with fresh berries. The program was in Russian, but I wanted to share the recipe with my English readers as well.

Cake Pavlova was created in honor of the legendary Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova when she toured Australia and New Zealand in the 20s of the 20th century. One theory holds that the cake was first made in Australia, but New Zealanders claim Pavlova is their invention.

Pavlova consists of a meringue shell topped with whipped cream and fresh fruits, typically, passion fruit, kiwi, and strawberries, but often raspberries and blueberries as well, like in this recipe. The meringue shell is absolutely delicious – it is marshmallow-soft inside and crunchy on the outside. Cream on top and berries with fresh mint as an added bonus – and you’ve created paradise for your palate. Pavlova is also easy to make. Just follow the recipe. Enjoy!

Fresh Berry Pavlova

Serves about 8

To see the process, go to AZ Cookbook on AZRU TV.

For the Meringue Shell:
4 large egg whites, at room temperature (they should not be cold – important!)
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup ( 7 oz / 190 g) superfine sugar (if you don’t have superfine sugar, process regular granulated sugar in a food processor until fine, but not powdery)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Cream:

1 1/4  (300 ml / 10 fl.oz ) cup heavy cream (butterfat content: 35-40%), chilled (important!)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

For the Top:

Mixed fresh raspberries and blueberries
A few fresh mint leaves
Powdered sugar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 200F (100C). Set the rack on the middle of the oven.

Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl (the bowl should be clean and absolutely dry!). Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until foamy.

Add the vinegar and cornstarch. Continue to beat until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes.

Adding the sugar gradually, about 1 tablespoon at a time,  continue beating until the mixture is glossy and stiff, about 5 minutes. To check if the mixture is ready: lift the beaters – if the mixture holds its shape as a pointy peak that stays on the beaters, it is ready. Add the vanilla extract and beat just until blended.

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