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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Brown Butter Strawberry Streusal Bars

Put the Windex away. Let the dust collect on the baseboards a bit longer. Take your rubber gloves and trade them in for an apron because the spring cleaning can wait. We have much more important things to do this spring then hunch over a mop and clean the floor. The only cleaning that we should be doing is cleaning out our pantry. 

It's time to some much needed spring baking. 

One of my favorite parts of spring (and summer) are the berries. It's berry-pickin' season and I can't think of anything better than buckets full of fresh berries that you pick yourself. Only a few things in life are more rewarding than picking your own berries and bringing them home to bake them into a beautiful pie, or in this case some delicious fruity bars. 

I used this recipe as my first attempt at baking with strawberries. I have always been hesitant to bake with them because I'm not a huge fan of the texture of baked strawberries. I'm not sure why I had this apathetic attitude towards strawberries, but this recipe has helped me give them another chance. My mind is changed now. I like baked strawberries. Who knew?! The brown butter comes through very strongly in these bars and its nutty flavor helps balance out the sweetness of the strawberries.

The best part of this recipe (besides the final product) was the strawberry syrup. After I took my first taste of it off the spatula (so sue me) I immediately started to think about what else I could do with it. It was sooo delicious! I would love to stir it into some greek yogurt. That would make me happy. 

So take a moment this spring to enjoy the seasonal fruits by making these bars!

Brown Butter Strawberry Streusel Bars
From: Une Gamine Dans La Cuisine
Recipe makes about 25-30 bars

Crust and crumb topping:
- 1 cup (2 sticks) + 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 1 cup granulated sugar (divided into 3/4 cup and 1/4 cup)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 3 cups + 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

Strawberry filling:- 3 heaping cups of fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into chunks
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar (use more if needed)
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- 3 teaspoons cornstarch (If you don't have any, a great substitute is flour. 3 tsp. flour = 1 tsp. cornstarch)

Begin by making the brown butter:
1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Increase the heat to medium and, stirring occasionally, cook the butter until it turns golden brown and develops a nutty aroma. 
2. Depending on the stove's heat, it can take 5-8 minutes for the butter to brown properly. 
3. During this process the butter will first become foamy before changing color, making it difficult to see what's going on. Just be sure to give it a good stir now and then so that the butter doesn't burn. 
4. Once it's brown and aromatic, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the butter to a heat-proof bowl. Cool to room temperature. 
5. There will be brown flakes at the bottom of pan, but don't worry. That is normal and they have a lot of flavor, so I like to keep them and not strain them out. 
{Note:You want to butter to be cool enough so that it won't scramble the eggs when they're added.}

Second, make the syrup:
1. In a large saucepan, combine the chunks of berries, sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Stir to combine. 
2. Bring to a gentle boil over med-high heat. Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid turns into a thick syrup (about 8-10 minutes). 
3. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. {Note: It will continue to thicken as it cools.} It will take about half an hour to 45 minutes to cool, but you can place it in fridge to speed up the process.

Thirdly, prepare the crust:
1. Line a 9x13-inch pan with foil, leaving a slight overhang along the edges. Lightly butter the entire foil-lined pan.
2. In a large bowl, combine the cooled brown butter, 3/4 cup of sugar, and salt. Stir till well blended. 
3. Add the yolks and the almond extract, whisk until smooth. 
4. Using a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in the flour until you have a stiff dough.
5. Transfer about 2 cups of the dough to the foil-lined pan and press it evenly onto the bottom.
{Note: It doesn't have to be exactly two cups, just keep in mind that whatever dough is left over will be used as the crumb topping.} 
6. Refrigerate the pan for about 40 minutes.
7. Preheat to 325 F. Remove the pan from the refrigerator and prick the crust several times with a fork. {Note: Chilling and pricking the dough will keep it from puffing up too much in the oven.}
8. Bake for about 15 minutes, just until the crust begins to set. Don't worry if the center still looks doughy, it's better to under-bake it at this stage.
9. Remove the partially-baked crust from the oven and place it onto a cooling rack. 

Next, make topping:
1. Add the 1/4 cup of sugar to the remaining dough, and using your fingertips, work the sugar into the dough until becomes crumbly and sandy. Cover and set aside.

Last, assemble and bake bars!
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Once pre-baked crust has cooled slightly, Spread the berry mixture over the partially-baked crust.
2. Sprinkle the remaining dough mixture over the berries.
3. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until the crumb topping is light golden.
4. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack. 
5. Cool for at least 3 hours before removing the bars from the pan (use the foil overhang to lift them out of the pan). You can set them in the fridge to help them cool more quickly. Cut in to bars. 


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