These soft, berry-filled bars are topped with a not-too-sweet crumble of oats, walnuts, and flaky coconut. The crumble is both a press-in crust and a topping, so the preparation is simple. They’re inspired by Karen Demasco’s Back-to-School Raspberry Granola Bars in The Craft of Baking. As much as I like her version, I wanted to swap the jam filling for fresh berries. However, I knew I’d run the risk of a runny filling. As a workaround, I turned to Cathy Barrow’s (aka mrswheelbarrow's) ingenious technique published in the NYTimes to thicken strawberry jam. She uses kiwi, which is full of natural pectin and unobtrusive in flavor. The extra step of cooking the berries seemed way too fussy for a crumble bar, so I peeled and grated the kiwi before adding it to my berries, similar to adding grated apple to thicken fruit pie or pastry. It worked a charm: the berry filling was juicy and perfectly set, without any of the gumminess that comes from cornstarch or flour. From there, I tinkered with the recipe to suit my taste. The beauty of this recipe is that it can be made year-round with any combination of fresh or frozen berries, but I’m partial to the combination of blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. —EmilyC
Test Kitchen Notes
EmilyC’s take on a fruit-filled granola bar is a wonderful after-school snack or a weekday dessert. I love how easy it is, and that it calls for ingredients that I already have in my pantry and freezer. I used some frozen apricots and sweet cherries from last summer and they were divine. If your fruit is a bit tart, consider adding a tiny amount of sugar to the fruit layer. —cookinginvictoria
one 8 x 8-inch pan of bars
walnuts, coarsely chopped
unsweetened coconut flakes (often labeled as coconut chips)
firm kiwi, peeled
to 2 1/2 fresh or frozen berries (do not thaw), any combination
Zest of 1 lemon
sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
1 1/2 cups
1 1/4 cups
old-fashioned rolled oats
dark brown sugar, packed
In This Recipe
Heat the oven to 350° F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Spread the walnuts and coconut flakes evenly in a small baking dish and toast for about 5 minutes, until just lightly browned. Let cool.
While the walnuts and coconut are toasting, coarsely grate the kiwi into a small bowl, making sure to catch the juice. Small remnants can be finely diced. Add the berries and lemon juice to the grated kiwi and stir to combine. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium heat melt the butter and cook until it turns brown and smells nutty, about 4 to 6 minutes. Be sure to stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom so they don't burn. Take the pan off the heat and let cool slightly.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, rolled oats, granulated sugar, brown sugar, toasted walnuts, coconut flakes, lemon zest, salt, and baking soda. Add the browned butter and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined.
Press 2/3 of the oat mixture in an even layer on the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Spread the berry-kiwi mixture evenly across the crust, then sprinkle with the remaining oat mixture.
Bake the bars for about 45 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until the top is golden brown and the berries are bubbling up around the edges. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the crumble bars cool completely. Cut into squares and serve. Bars can be kept in an airtight container on the counter for two or three days, if not longer. They'll soften as they age but retain their texture.