Work has slowed down some. I have time and mental energy to do other things, and I find myself spending a great deal of time thinking about food. This feels both pleasant and right, a return to the self I am used to having around. I've been catching up on my magazines, reading a lot of food blogs, enjoying the glimpses of other people's lives, sometimes wondering if all of this new media might have a salutary effect, making us slightly more empathetic toward one another.
I zipped through The Omnivore's Dilemma in slightly more than one day, and I have put it on the list of "books I think absolutely everyone should read." Even if you come away from it unchanged in your opinions, it's good to have them challenged. I haven't exactly "read" my other new book in quite the same way, but I have been opening Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet in random moments and marveling at the art, and at the authors, who are more open to adventure than I will ever be.
On Sunday I got my act together and did some baking while everyone else was out. It had been weeks since I made any bread, and I was getting tired of store-bought. Besides which, L will only eat what she calls "yellow bread" from the store, but she'll eat my half-whole-wheat--not sure why. Texture, perhaps, as I do tend to make my sandwich bread relatively soft. Anway. I did that, and I made some mini-muffins, the same recipe I always use because I always have the stuff around.
And I made blueberry bars. The advent of famer's market season means that new berries will soon be moving in. I had a bag left over from last year and needed to do something with them--something that wouldn't make a big deal of the fact that they were not particularly pretty. I had made this recipe once before and thought it was all right, and a change from my usual cakes. I made up a pan of these and brought most of them in to the office on Tuesday.
Nearly every single person who had one thanked me. I got one audible, "Oh my God!" and two requests for the recipe. I didn't get that reaction last time, but I'll take it any day!
Blueberry Crumble Bars
Tish Boyle, "The Good Cookie"
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
2/3 c firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
11 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c granulated sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 c blueberries
1 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 c granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Make the crust:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch baking pan.
Place the flour, brown sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to blend. Scatter the butter cubes over the flour mixture and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-sized pieces of butter, about six seconds.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, lemon zest, and vanilla extract until blended. Add the egg mixture to the food processor and process for a few seconds, just until the dough is blended but still crumbly. (Do not allow the dough to form a ball around the blade, or the crust will be tough.)
Turn the dough out into the prepared pan. With floured fingertips, press the dough evenly into the bottom of the pan.
(Note: Do *not* prepake this crust.)
Make the filling:
In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and ginger. Add the blueberries and toss to coat well. Spread the mixture evenly over the crust.
Make the topping:
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugars, cinnamon, and salt until blended. Stir in the melted butter until the mixture comes together. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the blueberry filling.
Bake the bars for 48-50 minutes, until the topping is lightly browned and the filling is bubbling. Cool the bars completely in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into 24 bars.