Pipe Dream #201: To Be a Teambuilder – Salted Caramel Crumb Bars and Raspberry Crumb Bars

crumble bars 3

If only everyone could eat fruit and streusel always. Wouldn’t that be happy? I mean, the world might not be fixed (there is Jesus for that), but emotionally, circumstantially, people might be affected. Maybe. I would be affected. No one ever said I wasn’t an emotional baker.

crumble bars 2

This recipe starts as all crumble bars should, a butter-flour crust flavored with a hint of vanilla. As it turns out, the streusel topping is just some of the reserved crust dough, so this actually comes together really quick.

But the filling of the bars is where you can feel free to live a little (raspberry jam and lemon). Or live a lot (sea salted caramel and pecans). I tried both versions in the same because I wanted efrything all at once (a perennial problem for me). The soft, shortbread-y crust is the perfect vehicle; it let’s the more delicate raspberry flavor shine, but also cuts through some of the richness of the caramel. The crust is like the ultimate white plate: simple, multi-functional and classic.

That being said, I did find the bars to be a little crumbly, so I’d look for something a little different next time. Plus, I forgot to add a bit of water to the reserved topping mixture, so the topping didn’t clump as I would have liked. We live and we learn, I guess.

crumble bars 1

Now, about this pan-splitting technique. I think it is pretty clever, though I don’t know to whom to credit its genius. Possibly I read about it  in this one cookbook I have with a recipe for a Battenburg cake that I’m too intimidated to make…but I can’t be quite sure, so I guess I’ll just have to claim the credit for being a genius? :]

Anyway, it’s fairly straightforward: just fold up two squares of parchment and let them meet in the middle, creating a seam. When you press the crust into the pan, they will stay in place so that you can fill each side with your desired fillings.

One note: I filled the caramel side a little fuller than the raspberry side, so it kept wanting to spread out past its boundaries. Just make sure you fill the two sides evenly so that they can lean on each other. It’s like those team-building exercises from summer camp where everyone has to hold hands and lean back to keep each other standing on a too-small platform? If one person doesn’t lean back enough, everyone falls. Do you know what I’m talking about? If not, gravity. Team-building, gravity crumb bars.

crumble bars 6

Another note: make sure to let the bars cool fully after you take them out of the oven. The caramel and jam will be a little runny if you don’t, and heaven knows you want to keep as much of that in the bar and off the floor as possible.

crumble bars 4

This recipe is for anyone who never feels quite satisfied and wants everything, all at once. It is also for someone looking for an afternoon slice with their tea. It is also for scientists at heart who appreciate the laws of physics. Ok, it is basically for everyone. It is on the Internet.

Until there are Jesus clouds,


Basic Crumb Bars + Flavor Ideas

Adapted from Tutti Dolci

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
heaping 1/4 teapsoon baking powder
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup s white sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F and line a 9″ square baking dish with parchment paper. If you are making two variation of the crumb bars, place two sheet of parchment that meet up in the middle, dividing the pan in two.

Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl.

Beat butter and sugars in a large mixer bowl at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture until just combined. Reserve half of the dough for topping, and press the remaining dough evenly into bottom of the lined baking dish.

For toppings, you might add a 1/2 cup of raspberry jam, warmed in the microwave for ten seconds. I also tried a handful of chopped pecans, and then made half a batch of this caramel to go over it.

Top the bars with the remaining crumbs and bake for 20 minutes, or until the crumbs are just starting to brown. Let cool, then slice into bars. You can also drizzle with a little glaze if you like.


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