Bursting with Bright Berry Flavor: Lemony Blueberry Bars with Chunky Almond Crumble

After Taunton Press sold my beloved Fine Cooking to Meredith last year, the quality of the magazine took a dramatic nosedive. The prior staff -- including the test kitchen staff -- is gone, the physical contents of the test kitchen have been sold off, and almost all of the recipes are now recycled content from other Meredith publications. I canceled my subscription. While Fine Cooking featured recipes from many talented bakers, I particularly liked the way it provided a steady stream of recipes from Abby Dodge, who had been a Fine Cooking contributor since the magazine's inception. But I was happy to learn that Abby was writing a column for Cook the Vineyard in Martha's Vineyard magazine, and as I started browsing her recipes there, the one that immediately jumped out at me was her "Lemon Blueberry Bars with Chunky Almond Crumble."  

You make the mixture that serves as both the crust and crumble for these bars in the food processor, by mixing cold cubed butter with flour, sugar, baking soda, lemon zest, and salt; and pulsing in an egg. You press half of the dough into a lined pan. Then you spread on a filling made by mashing blueberries with sugar, flour, salt, and lemon zest; and mixing in whole blueberries. You mix chopped almonds into the remaining crust/crumble mixture and scatter it over the top.
The tops of these bars were basically a continuous layer of crumble, although some blueberry filling did bubble up around the edges (the slices in the photo above are both edge pieces). I thought these bars were terrific. The blueberry filling was so substantial -- it was thick and jammy but also had purity of flavor from the whole fruit. I think the combination of lightly sweetened and salted mashed fruit mixed with whole berries is genius -- it gives you something more intense than either just fresh fruit or jam alone. The lemon flavor was also quite prominent, and these bars were bright and summery. I had used fairly large pieces of almonds in the topping (I just put them in a plastic bag and bashed them a few times with a rolling pin), and I loved the flavor and texture from the big chunks. These bars are absolutely perfect for summer.
Recipe: "Lemony Blueberry Bars with Chunky Almond Crumble" by Abigail Dodge, from Martha's Vineyard magazine.