Year 2002. We are in Los Angeles, just moved here, newly married. One day our family friend Jim Porter walks into our apartment holding a plate with something looking absolutely delicious. Jim made oatmeal bars for us! The bars were so good. Soft, full of oats, with luscious preserves spread in-between.
I loved the bars so much that I asked Jim for the recipe. He graciously shared it with me. Jim’s recipe was very similar to what I later found in William’s Sonoma baking book, with the only slight difference being the ingredient amounts. I will share one of those recipes with you.
Sadly Jim is no more. It’s been years. But every time I bake these bars, I remember Jim proudly handing me that plate with his homemade creations and my face beaming at the prospect of savoring them with a cup of freshly brewed tea. Thank you, Jim, for the sweet memories. And your bars were the best!
Blueberry-Oatmeal Crunch Bars
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Baking
You can also sprinkle walnut chunks on top of the preserves, if you wish. They go particularly well with apricot preserves. Also, you can serve these bars warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Delicious!
1 +3/4 cups all-purpose flour (9 oz / 280 g)
1 +1/2 cups (4+ 1/2 oz /140 g) old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup (7 oz /220 g) firmly packed golden brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (8 oz / 230 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 3/4-inch (2-cm) pieces
1 cup blueberry jam (can substitute any preserves/jam you have, such as cherry, strawberry, raspberry, apricot, etc.)
Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 325ºF (165ºC). Butter a 9-inch (23-cm) square baking pan.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon until blended. Using a pastry blender or a knife, cut in the butter until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of small peas. (If you have a food processor you can combine the flour, toast, and sugar and plus 2 to 3 times until blended. Then add butter and pulse 8-10 times until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of small peas.)
Remove 2 cups of the crumb mixture and set aside. Press the remaining crumb mixture into the bottom and 1 inch (2.5 cm) up the sides of the prepared pan.
Drop tablespoons of the jam evenly over the crust, then spread it gently with the back of the spoon to cover the crust. Sprinkle the reserved crumbs evenly over the jam layer. Do not press onto the sprinkled crumbs.
Bake until the top is lightly browned, about 50 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool until firm, about 2 hours. Using a large, sharp knife, cut into 25 small squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.