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I’m a firm believer that ingredients should be used when they’re ripe and in season. The problem is: where I live, Iowa, does not have seasonal produce for much of the year. Instead, we have to get creative and grow winter squash to keep during the cold months and preserve fruits and vegetables during the summer to be able to eat what we grew out of season.
Yes, you can now go to most grocery stores and get pretty much anything during any month. But I try to stick with the seasons and the easiest way to enjoy is with fruit preserves and frozen fruit. I love both. Preserves have pieces of fruit in them and are cooked with sugar to create a thickened spread that’s useful with anything, just like these crumb bars.
What is a crumb bar?
A crumb bar is simply a layered bar. Many bar recipes start with a shortbread-like crust where you press it into the pan, par-bake it, and then continue to layer. I wanted to make this recipe as simple as can be and let the raspberry pop.
These bars use a streusel-like crumb mixture in two ways:
- After the butter is worked into the dry ingredients, crumbs are formed. They hold together when squeezed in a fist and easily fall apart when rubbed between fingers. Pressed into the bottom of the pan, the crumbs become the perfect crust. With the addition of oats, the crust is hearty, and pressing it helps it hold together and create a good base.
- Once the jam is spread on top of the crust, the remainder of the crumbs become the best craggy topping. Little pockets of jam poke through and odd-sized pieces of crumb provide a superb texture.
What is a preserve?
Unlike a jam or a jelly, preserves have a higher ratio of chunks of fruit. For these bars, I’ll be honest that preserves and jam can be used interchangeably. However, be warned that jelly can melt into the bars and doesn’t offer the correct texture. To make sure the middle fruit layer is extra flavorful and has heft, frozen berries are sprinkled on top of the preserves. Frozen berries are picked and instantly frozen at peak ripeness and flavor. Adding them to the preserves adds complexity and so much extra flavor.
Why do these bars work?
These bars are not a bar cookie, like blondies, brownies, or more traditional bars. Instead, these crumb bars are at the intersection of flavor and texture and it makes them the perfect dessert.
- Both the streusel on top and the bottom crust have oats for texture, but also for flavor.
- The crust does not need to be pre-baked, so these go together in a few minutes and are fully assembled when baked.
- The crust comes out crispy, the center layer holds together without oozing all over, and the crumb topping is like any perfect pie topping.
- When you take a bite of these bars, they’re not too sweet. Instead, they have a complexity that satisfies any adult with good raspberry flavor and hints of brown sugar and cinnamon.
- These also make any kid happy since they’re well-balanced flavor-wise and full of nostalgic goodness.
Watch how to make these raspberry crumb bars:
Raspberry Crumb Bars
- 1 ¼ cups flour
- 1 ¼ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¾ cup cold butter cubed
- 8 oz raspberry preserves
- ¾ cup frozen raspberries
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Line an 8×8 baking dish with a parchment sling and spray with nonstick spray. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Mix together until evenly combined. Add pieces of butter and work into the dry ingredients using hands or a pastry cutter. Squeeze butter and dry mixture between fingers until the mixture becomes like went sand with pieces of butter the size of peas and smaller.
- Pour two cups of the crumb mixture into the prepared baking dish. Lightly press to form an even crust. Spread raspberry preserves over the crust. Sprinkle with frozen raspberries. Top with remaining crumb mixture. Do not press crumbs, just sprinkle over the top.
- Bake in the preheated oven until the top turns slightly browned and puffed in the middle, 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and cool at least four hours before slicing.