Aside from our day jobs (as if they weren’t enough!), Dylan and I oversee an off-campus apartment building of about fifty undergraduates, making sure that the students are generally healthy and well, that they maintain a respectable level of hygiene and cleanliness, and that their needs are appropriately met. For many of you, no doubt, the thought of attending to the needs to dozens of college students might just have made your top five list of worst nightmares, but in reality, this is a pretty low-key bunch. In most cases, they’ve chosen to live off campus because they’re pretty self-sufficient and want to escape the noise, filth, and rowdiness of on-campus dorm life. And with such independent-minded charges, our job is easy, usually entailing little more than throwing a dessert or movie night every so often to make sure they’re alive and well.
Late this spring, feeling generally overfed, but missing baking, it dawned on me that I had found a perfect baking outlet. Not only were there fifty hungry mouths just waiting for a late-night snack on any given evening, but the university fund would my baking endeavors when they fell under the guise of student life. A perfect relationship, no? So every couple of weeks, I would pick something to make and then Dylan and I would walk around the apartment complex knocking on doors, checking in on the students, and bringing a dessert surprise. One such evening, I made these berry oatmeal crumble bars found here on Baking Bites. A oaty-crust (not unlike graham cracker crumbles), a layer of sweet jammy berries (in this case a mix of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries), and more crumbles on top, these were a good way to satisfy my sweet tooth when I wasn’t in the mood for something chocolatey. Don’t be fooled into thinking these are healthy by the berries and the oats in the name- there’s plenty of sugar and butter to combat that notion- but they were tasty and as hoped, quickly disappeared thanks to our hungry charges.
Berry oatmeal crumble bars (makes 20)
3 cups fresh or frozen berries (I used Trader Joe’s frozen mix of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
Crumble and Crust
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (quick-cooking or regular)
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened and cut into 7-9 large chunks
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. To make the filling: In a medium saucepan, stir together berries and lemon juice and cook medium heat until fruit is tender, about 8-15 minutes, depending on type of berries being used (strawberries take longer than other berries, usually).
2. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and cornstarch, then stir into fruit mixture. Continue cooking until mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 1-2 minutes, until thick. Scrape berry filling into a medium bowl and set aside.
3. To make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease a 9×13″ baking pan. In a food processor (or large mixing bowl), combine flour, oats, brown sugar, butter, baking soda , salt and vanilla extract. Pulse until mixture is thoroughly blended and resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside 1 1/2 cups of this mixture in a medium bowl. Pour remaining crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish, spread evenly and pat down. Place filling in dollops over crust and carefully spread to cover entire surface (this will be difficult to do, so take it slow). Squeeze reserved crumb mixture into large clumps with your fingers and sprinkle evenly over the top of the fruit filling.
4. Bake until golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
Cut into 20 bars to serve.