Never say never.
As I grow older, I realize the power of those words. My life has taken twists and turns that I never imagined it would, and being open to new things has landed me right where I’m meant to be. This applies to food, too. I say things like, “I’m not a pie person.” And then I make this. And this. I say, “I don’t like jam.” And then I make this. By re-trying the things I think I don’t like, I’m discovering that I DO.
It’s not that I don’t love fresh fruit. My aversion is the too-sweet mushiness that I associate with fruit pies or jelly. So when I scanned the vibrant fruit selection at the farm stand for Marvin’s Garden this week, I surprised myself by gravitating toward the plump blackberries, shining seductively in the sun. Blackberry jam, I thought. Blackberry galette. Blackberry peach pie. I scooped up three cartons of blackberries before I could talk myself out of recipes that “I don’t like.”
It rained on Thursday in Park City- a perfect day for baking. I’d already researched a few recipes for blackberry-thyme jam, but before I started, I sat down with a cup of coffee to page through my new cookbook. I stopped when I saw a mouth-watering photo of blueberry oatmeal bars. Surely blackberries would work here. I switched gears, put on my apron, and turned on the oven.
Fresh fruit is so delicious. I popped plenty of tiny, fat berries into my mouth as I pulled my ingredients together. I was reminded of Memorial Day two years ago, when John and I were camping near Oregon’s Rogue River. There were wild blackberry bushes everywhere. We ate them right off the vine, and filled bags of the sun-ripened fruit for snacking. Yummy food memories.
The first order of business for these fruity bars was to essentially make a quick jam with the blackberries. In a small pot, I mixed the berries, some sugar, and a little lemon juice together and let it simmer for a while. As the berries began breaking down, I helped them along by smooshing them.
A taste with my spoon made me wonder why on Earth I thought I didn’t like jam.
When the berries had cooked down into a lumpy, juicy mess, I removed them from the heat. I mixed cornstarch and water together and stirred it into the berries, along with some vanilla. Mmmm!
Next came the oatmeal crust and topping. In a bowl, I mixed flour, oats, plenty of brown sugar, and – my own addition- lots of cinnamon. I melted some butter and poured it into the bowl, mixing it well. Look at that tasty crumble mixture!
About 2/3 of the crumble mixture found its way into a square baking dish. I pressed it firmly into a crust, then poured the whole pot of blackberry jam over it. I sprinkled the remaining crumble mixture evenly over the jam and popped the berry bars into the oven.
I did NOT wait for them to cool completely before serving myself a square. Beautiful!
What I love about these bars is that they are not overly sweet. The main source of sweetness is the blackberries, and the crust and topping allow the flavor of the fruit to shine. They would be a delicious breakfast or incredible served with ice cream. I devoured my piece.
And now I like things made with warm blackberry jam. Never say never.
Blackberry Cinnamon Oat Bars
(source: Family Flavor‘s blueberry oatmeal bars. I simply used blackberries instead and added cinnamon.)
- 2 cups fresh blackberries
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cup flour
- 3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, add berries, sugar, and lemon juice. Mix well to combine. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until most of the berries have released their juices. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water and stir well to combine. Remove pan from heat and stir in the cornstarch mixture and vanilla extract. Stir well to combine and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, and butter. Mix well. Press 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of an 8×8 baking pan. Pour the berry filling on top and sprinkle the remaining crumble mixture over the berries. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Cool completely if you can wait that long and cut into squares. YUM!
**Many more yummy recipes can be found on the FOOD BLISS page!**