Warning: This is not your standard Cooking by the Book post because I’m going to force you to wade through some not-totally-related and longer-than-usual backstory first.
But here is a pretty picture first so you know what we’ll eventually be getting to:
You see, way back around Thanksgiving, our stove—after an estimated 30-ish years of existence—finally threw in the towel and succumbed to death by exhaustion. For some time, the thing had been protesting its lot in life—the burners heated inconsistently; the oven ran about 50 degrees under temp; running the broiler properly involved propping open the door with a wooden spoon; it was inadvisable for anyone but me to use the stovetop because the indicators had long worn away so it was a bit of a crapshoot which burner would come on and at what temp when you twiddled any given dial…ordinary life in our kitchen, in other words. But one day, part of the plastic knob to control one of the back burners—one of the big ones, wouldn’t you know—snapped off. Jamming it back on and attempting to gently turn the switch didn’t meet with immediate success, so I quit trying for fear that I’d get it to turn on and wouldn’t be able to turn it back off.
Great. In the midst of the busiest cooking and baking time of the year I was down a burner. And the other big burner was playing an interesting game where it would heat to either astonishingly high temp or barely anything at all. Not much in between. Despite these troubles, I soldiered through the season because it seemed ridiculous to try to schedule a repair/replacement between two weekends away, holiday baking and the actual holidays.
Once we got back from our New Year’s trip to visit Shake’s family in Hilo, I emailed our landlord about the stove. Kind and generous fellow that he is, he made arrangements for us to get a brand-new stove right away, rather than messing around with trying to repair the old one. He even said I could pick what I wanted, but after reviewing the options I ended up going with the same old rental unit standby, the four-burner electric coil.
As a “Thank You!” for him, I decided to bake something nice in our spiffy new appliance. What to make, what to make…since I wasn’t sure about his fondness for booze-y or chocolate-y desserts, I opted for fruit. I always feel like fruit is a “safe” dessert choice. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m very fond of the BAKED NYC series of cookbooks. I found this recipe for Raspberry Crumb Breakfast Bars in their book, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking.
Reminder: Cooking by the Book posts are meant to be companions to the original recipe, not a substitute. As long as the book is still in print, I won’t be copying the recipe here for you. See here for why.
Before You Start (Regarding Ingredients)
No strange ingredients needed for this one. It’s all quite basic. I used frozen berries instead of fresh since they were going to be roasted anyway. Which also meant that although they weren’t very pretty after I’d left them defrosting in the fridge for two days, it didn’t really matter. Also, it was impossible to find the exact amount of berries called for in the recipe (one pound), so I just winged it with one 14-ounce bag. Turned out just fine.
If you’re not a person who regularly uses rolled oats, I recommend getting them at Whole Foods or a natural/health grocery store where they stock lots of bulk bins. (One of my favorite tricks for buying things on a trip or when I just need a little of something odd.)
This is a real no-brainer—no special tricks or complicated processes. I did discover, however, that I have outgrown my food processor and need to get a bigger one. We just have a tiny four-cupper, so I had to pulse my crumb mix in two batches. I knew this was going to happen, though, so I mixed the ingredients together in a big bowl first to blend and then transferred half at a time into the food processor. Worked out fine.
If your berries are frozen, you may also notice that when you add the melted butter, it coagulates in an astonishingly gross way. Don’t freak out. It’s OK. It all melts again in the oven.
Our landlord was very appreciative of the thank you treat, and so were Shake’s co-workers since they got a nice share of the batch, too. The BAKED boys say:
BAKED NOTE: We hope the title of the Raspberry Crumb Breakfast Bar is not misleading. The word “crumb” often alludes to the thick topping on a cakey breakfast treat, but this bar is actually more like a thin raspberry sandwich.
But I think these still totally work for breakfast. They’re like Fig Newtons. Without the figs. Or the newton. And they’re better. Maybe they’re more like Pop Tarts. Whatever. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that they have a lovely layer of sweet-tart fruit sandwiched between lightly sweet, dense, chewy cookie-like goodness.
Should I try this recipe? Yes! It’s very easy and doesn’t require odd ingredients. It doesn’t take much time, either, and it’s something that kids and adults would both enjoy. And you can eat the extras for breakfast and not feel guilty. They’re breakfast bars, not dessert. Totally.
Difficulty: 1 out of 5.
Should I buy the book? If you like traditional, homey baked goods, I think it’s a good choice. The recipes are items that are popular at their bakery shop, so some of them are a bit more complex, but (although these Raspberry Bars are the only things I’ve actually made so far) there are a lot of simple, delicious-looking choices, too. The book also includes modern takes on classic desserts and some interesting new concepts, like Root Beer Bundt Cake or Red Hot Velvet Cake. I’m finding it’s a good book for potluck party desserts where it’s just too much trouble to make something super fancy.
Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Retail List Price: $32.50
208 pages, hardcover
Stewart, Tabori and Chang (October 2008)