Blueberry Bars

I made a tray of these for the folks at work on my first full day back on the job last week. They remind me of pastries I would get at the long defunct French Market in Columbus where I held a job at a wine shop as a very young man. Can’t remember the name of the pastry shop but I do recall getting all manner of scones, muffins and cookie like pastries such as these blueberry bars and enjoying them in the morning (or on snowy nights) with Café au lait, wine books and always music.

The crust is crumbly but well structured and has delicious vanilla notes. The crust also forms a strata as the jam sinks into the base halfway through the baking and setting process. The egg white meringue within the middle top layer is a wonderful texture contrast between the nuts, jam and cookie crust.

It was great to return to work, interesting projects and good people this week. And with Spring the walks in Goodale Park at noon with a paper and then 15 minutes on a bench for some meditation were all but incredible as well. Looking ahead a little to next week, I’m very excited about restarting my workout routines at Grant Fitness Center for the next three months (then back to the YMCA), exploring more vegetarian food options, planting an urban balcony garden with Eddie as well as putting together a solid collection of great wines for the year ahead. But I get ahead of myself… this is about blueberry bars and co-workers, a little about Spring but mostly about the gratitude I feel to have such an incredible life.

These bars are truly a delight and, in moderation, not so bad for the heart after all.

Original recipe from The Kitchen: Hungarian Raspberry Bars

Makes 25 servings of 2 1/2-inches square

  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup blueberry jam
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts & almonds, divided

Process

  1. Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Prepare a 10-x-15-inch jelly roll pan by greasing lightly with cooking spray or butter.
  2. Whip the egg whites with an electric mixer until they form stiff peaks. Gently transfer to a separate bowl and set aside.
  3. Use the mixer to cream the butter and sugar. Add vanilla and egg yolks, and beat for a full three or four minutes, until their volume has increased and the mixture is yellow and smooth.
  4. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir into the butter mixture with a wooden spoon or your hands. Pat it out in the prepared pan, crimping it into the corners; if the dough is a little crumbly just press it in firmly.
  5. Spread the dough with jam; sprinkle 1/2 cup ground walnuts over the jam and spread beaten egg whites evenly over the nuts. Sprinkle the remaining nuts over egg whites.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes. Watch carefully and avoid over-baking the egg white topping. It should be crisp but not really brown at all. The crust should be just barely golden brown.
  7. Cut into squares when cool. Store in a closed container at room temperature for up to 5 days. These are best on the day they are made, as the egg white topping softens after a day.
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