For someone who hates bugs, wet grass and many other things about
the green spaces of NYC the great outdoors, I’m a real big fan of picnics. I love lounging on a soft blanket and people-watching/cloud-gazing with the occasional travel mug full of wine or two. (I mean no. I would never do that.)
With summer nearly upon us, picnic season is back. And since I live less than 5 blocks from Central Park itself, I hope to find myself lazing on grassy knolls more frequently. That’s where these bars come in.
Summertime, more than any other season, is a time for transportable meals that can be eaten or carried while on the move — without fuss or mess — whether you’re stuck in the back of a car (road trip!), headed to the beach or even to a neighbor’s backyard for a BBQ.*
While a little bread, meat and cheese will never disappoint, sometimes you want a little something-something: a hearty summer salad, say, or a veggie burger or two. (To me, it’s very important that whatever you’re transporting can be eaten at room temperature, since in all likelihood, you won’t be able to heat it or chill it properly when outside.)
And while the savory side of meals is important, let’s be honest — I’m only in it for the dessert. A good cookie, a mini tart, maybe even a bar or two can really top off an outdoor meal. They’re easy to carry, easy to serve and extremely easy to eat.
These strawberry streusel bars, a riff off the blueberry crumb bars I made almost two (!!) years ago, fall somewhere between a sinful breakfast and a wholesome dessert. There’s some whole wheat flour, walnuts, fresh fruit … and a whole lotta butter and sugar. The brown sugar enhances the nuttiness of the bars, and the slight kick of the orange juice adds a hint of citrus throughout. The bars are sweet but not cloying, and if you add oats to the crumb mixture, you may be able to pass this off as a true breakfast bar. (I didn’t have any — otherwise I would have.)
I somehow managed to make these bars at 7:30 a.m. after a long Saturday night out, which is all you need to know about how easy they are to put together. The hardest part is waiting before slicing into them, but your patience is rewarded, since it’s much easier to cut them when they’re cooled. When slicing, be sure to leave a few on the side for yourself, though — these bars go fast.
*I like these foods for none of these reasons. My love affair with transportable meals starts and ends with the fact that I can put them in my bag and carry them all around the city as my lunch and they won’t spill. I’m still bitter, pea soup.
Strawberry Streusel Bars
Adapted from this recipe
- 1 cup white sugar, divided into 1/2 cup and 1/2 cup measurements
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 8 ounces cold salted butter (2 sticks)
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 2 pounds (4 cups) fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
- 4 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- turbinado sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
1) Preheat the oven to 375°F and butter a 9-×-13 inch pan.
2) Mix 1/2 cup of the white sugar, the 1/2 cup of brown sugar, both the all-purpose and whole-wheat flours and the baking powder. Stir in the egg, then using two knives, cut in the butter — the dough will be very crumbly. Place half of the dough in the prepared pan and push it into place with your fingertips.
3) In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup of white sugar, orange juice, strawberries and cornstarch. Scatter the strawberry mixture evenly over the pan.
4) Add the chopped walnuts to the remaining dough, then sprinkle over the pan. Top with a sprinkling of the turbinado sugar, then bake for 45 minutes, or until the bars have browned slightly. Cool, then cut into pieces.