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Food and Drink

Kirsten Dixon: Wild Alaska blueberry and raspberry bars

  • Author: Kirsten Dixon
  • Updated: August 2, 2019
  • Published December 6, 2011

There’s something especially festive this time of year in seeing my kitchen table covered in flour dust. A flour-saturated tea towel draped over the kitchen stool won’t be easy to wash, but it is a comforting reminder that the holiday season is here.

We are making cookies this week -- in all shapes and flavors. We're also baking breakfast breads (my favorite so far is sweet potato-pecan), a few cakes, and even a few pies. My daughter Mandy and I are preparing edible gifts to give to friends and acquaintances throughout the holidays.

Today is "blueberry-raspberry bar" day. We make a different cookie each day of the week so ingredients on the countertop don't get out of control and we don't short-circuit halfway through a recipe.

We wanted to make a cookie in the style of a Fig Newton with an Alaskan twist. You don't see these so often in a holiday cookie assortment, but these bars are always the first to disappear.

To reinvent our recipe to represent something a little closer to home, we took out some of our coveted wild blueberry and raspberry stash from the freezer. We slow-cooked the berries with a little sugar and lemon to make an impromptu jam.

Next, we made egg-enhanced cookie dough -- basically, butter, sugar, eggs and flour. We combined melted butter with brown sugar and beat in the eggs and vanilla. We added in the dry ingredients, chilled our dough for about an hour, and rolled it out to create our blueberry bars.

Our recipe calls for both baking powder and baking soda. I learned from food scientist Shirley Corriher that one teaspoon of baking powder will raise a mixture of one cup of flour, one cup of liquid, and one egg. If the mixture contains an acidic ingredient (like buttermilk, yogurt, or surprisingly, brown sugar), the baking powder won't completely react all the way. The end result is a kind of soapy bitter taste. So, we add in a little bit of baking soda to interact with the remaining acidic ingredients to balance out that flavor. Baking soda also helps to brown baked goods (some chefs rub baking soda on pork or beef to brown the skin). Baking soda is about four times as strong as baking powder, so a little goes a long way.

We used all-purpose flour in our recipe and just a little bit of whole-wheat flour. You could substitute all whole-wheat flour if you prefer. Conversely, for a super-soft cookie, you could use low-protein cake flour. Experiment with different flours to find the right combination for your palate.

You can substitute the filling in this cookie for nearly anything: apple pie filling or strawberry jam, for example. You can add instant oats to the cookie dough to make a kind of breakfast bar.

To Make the Blueberry-Raspberry filling:

6 cups mixed wild blueberries and raspberries

3 cups sugar

1/4 cup lemon juice

Rind of one lemon

Pinch of salt

1. Combine all the ingredients in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan.

2. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the mixture is thickened. I don't usually need to mash up small wild berries, but if you are using commercial berries (frozen is fine), you might need to mash the mixture with the back of a wooden spoon into a spreadable consistency.

This is our everyday jam recipe that you can use to make weekly fresh jam for the breakfast table. You can add spices, oranges, vanilla paste, or other favorite flavors if you prefer. Some people add pectin into their jam to make a jelled consistency. I typically don't do this but if you prefer it, just add in the recommended amount of pectin depending on brand you are using. The cooking time will decrease slightly.

Makes about 6 cups of blueberry jam.

To make the cookie dough for blueberry bars:

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour (we substituted ½ cup whole wheat flour)

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Grease 2 standard baking sheets.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooled melted butter and brown sugar. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.

3. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. (If you have a flour sifter, it is always great to use it for this recipe so the baking soda and baking powder are well combined).

4. Combine the butter and sugar mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir the combined mixture until it all comes together. At this point, you might have to continue to knead the batter with your hands until it forms a ball.

5. Cover it with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for about an hour. Remove the dough.

6. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Divide the dough into two equal parts.

7. On a lightly floured surface, roll one of the balls of dough into a 12-inch by 12-inch square. Trim the square into three long strips. Move the strips onto the prepared baking sheet.

8. Spread some of the jam down the middle of each strip of dough. Fold one edge of the dough to cover the jam. Fold over the other side. This will create a seam down the middle and form a log shape. Lightly press to seal the seam. Carefully flip the log over so the seam is on the underside (use a wide spatula to help with this). Repeat this process with the additional strip of dough and with the additional ball of dough. You will need two baking sheets to hold six logs.

9. Bake the logs in the center rack of the oven for about 10 minutes, or until they are golden brown. When the logs are cooled, cut them into 1 1/2-inch individual bars.

Makes 36 blueberry bars.