Every cook needs a few recipes that can be adapted to one’s mood or whatever is hiding in the back of the freezer or pantry. A few frozen blueberries, some straggling strawberries and a few pantry staples can be quickly transformed into a moist, buttery bar that pops with fruit flavor.
In a hurry? Substitute your favorite jam or canned pie filling. Applesauce works too, mixed with a few raisins and cinnamon. Not in a decadent mood? Decrease the sugar and replace some of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat and they become more like a cereal bar – perfect for a quick breakfast.
Don’t be afraid to experiment; it’s all good.
Oatmeal Fruit Bars
1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh or frozen fruit (blueberries, hulled strawberries, sliced peaches)
zest from one lemon
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups quick oats
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9X13-inch baking pan.
For filling, mix fruit, lemon zest and water in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. While fruit is cooking, mix sugar and cornstarch. When fruit starts to bubble, stir in sugar and cornstarch. Continue stirring and cooking until fruit thickens, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
For crust, mix flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in butter until mixture looks like crumbs.
Press two-thirds of the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared baking pan.
Spread the filling evenly over this bottom layer. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs over the filling.
Bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes.
Cool completely in the pan and cut into 36 bars.