Banana Blueberry Bars
I pronounce the word “bar” with a painful mash-up between a moderately twangy Kansas accent and a horrifically nasal Minnesota accent. While you are trying to imagine what that sounds like, toss in the fact that I just took a giant bite of Banana Blueberry Crumb Bars. Have I always been this attractive?
I lived in Minnesota for four years, where I was introduced to bars not as a dessert, but as a separate food group. Sure I’d had seven-layer bars and lemon bars, but until I lived in the land of 10,000 lakes, I had never heard “bars” referred to as an independent food group. Example uses: “Oh yah, we had a potluck at work so I made some bars,” and “Oh, yah know, the poor girl just broke up with her boyfriend, so I think she could use some bars.” Now, please take a moment to re-read those phrases with a near-Canadian accent, which is how I played them in my head while typing.
Despite my gentle poking fun at a northern accent (which, as my family will be the first tell you, I’ve been picking up over the last six years), Minnesotans are on to something. Less fussy than scooping individual cookies, intrinsically satisfying to both crispy-corner and gooey-middle lovers alike, and downright delectable, bars deserve our respect. I motion that we honor this great culinary category by devouring an entire pan of Banana Blueberry Crumb Bars.
As the Peaches and Cream Pancakes, Rainbow Fruit Pizza, Plum Crunch Steel Cut Oats, Double Crust Cherry Crisp, and Fresh Cherry Salsa that I’ve posted in the past few weeks will attest, I’m having a full-on summer fruit fiesta over here. I’d love for you to join me by baking Banana Blueberry Crumb Bars. They’re bursting with berry flavor, loaded with crumb topping, and best of all (relatively) good for you too.
I lightened up this recipe for Banana Blueberry Crumb Bars by incorporating whole wheat flour into the crumb and crust (fiber!), adding roasted almonds for protein and crunch, and using a mashed banana in place of half of the butter. The recipe still contains enough butter to make these bars taste indulgent and, well, buttery (yum!). The banana keeps them super soft, moist, and, dare I suggest, acceptable for breakfast.
The bar filling is pure fresh blueberries with a touch of lemon (frozen blueberries will work too—simply thaw and pat dry), set atop a layer of vibrant raspberry jam. Although the banana taste is lightly present, it’s truly the blueberry flavor that shines. To ensure the filling stays the right consistency, I’d stick with the blueberries for the filling (or adjust the cornstarch and sugar levels accordingly), but feel free to swap in any fruity jam you have on hand.
No matter your accent, Banana Blueberry Crumb Bars are a lovely dessert that begs to be devoured before blueberry season comes to an end. I’m pretty sure we all sound the same with our mouths full anyway!
Banana Blueberry Bars
- 1 cup granulated sugar — divided
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 cups blueberries — (fresh or frozen, thawed, and patted dry)
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter — (1 stick) at room temperature
- 1/2 cup very ripe mashed banana — about 1 large
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/3 cups white whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup raspberry jam
- 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
- 1/3 cup toasted chopped almonds
Place rack in the center of oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat an 8x8-inch dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice. Stir in blueberries. Set aside.
Place the butter and remaining 3/4 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed just until combined. With the mixer on low, add the banana and vanilla. In a separate bowl, stir together the white whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, mixing until it almost comes together in a ball.
Lightly and evenly pat two-thirds of the dough into the bottom and 1/4 up the sides of the preppared baking pan. Spread jam over the top of the dough. Drain blueberries of any excess liquid, then sprinkle the berries over the top. With your fingers, mix the oats and almonds into the remaining dough to create the topping. Break the topping into pieces and crumble it over the blueberries, covering most of the surface but leaving some blueberries exposed. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool completely and cut into bars.
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