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Published July 28, 2010, 12:00 AM

Halgrimson: Blueberry bars aren’t hard to make

Many years ago while visiting friends who had a lake cottage near Hibbing, Minn., we sallied forth into the forest in search of blueberries.

By: Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, INFORUM

Many years ago while visiting friends who had a lake cottage near Hibbing, Minn., we sallied forth into the forest in search of blueberries. Carrying large enamel metal basins and pails, we finally found the blueberry bushes laden with fruit and we began picking.

We filled all of our containers and took them back to the cabin. There must have been 10 pounds or more. We ate a great many out of hand while our hostess rolled out pie crust and her mother mixed up batter for muffins. In the morning we had blueberries on our pancakes.

My, what a delicious weekend it was.

The fruits found in local markets are raised commercially and are much bigger than those wild berries of long ago. And the ones available here are not quite as sweet but still a special treat.

The claims made for the benefits of eating blueberries are numerous. They supposedly lower blood cholesterol levels, boost the immune system and prevent infections, improve glucose control and insulin sensitivity, they are laden with antioxidants, contain high levels of vitamin C and fiber, promote urinary tract health, relieve constipation, improve vision, contribute to brain health, reduce the risk of cancer and serve as an antidepressant.

While blueberries would seem to be a veritable cure-all for the ills of humankind, I just like them plain with a little yogurt or cream.

But last summer when Beatrice Orakangas did some cooking demonstrations at the Heritage Hjemkomst Festival, she made blueberry bars. In Finnish they are called Mustikkapiirakka.

While I don’t make pies and the crust for the bars is piecrust, it seemed much easier to get the rolled dough into a jelly-roll pan than a pie tin, and I’ve managed to make the bars several times. Here’s a recipe for the treats.

Beatrice’s Blueberry Bars (Mustikkapiirakka)

Crust:

2½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 cup butter, softened

2 to 3 tablespoons water

Filling:

2 cups fresh blueberries

4 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoon grated lemon peel

2 tablespoons cornstarch

¼ teaspoon salt

For the crust, sift flour, sugar and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Using a fork, mix in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Toss with 1 or 2 tablespoons water. With hands, press together into a ball.

On a floured board, roll dough to fit a 12-by-16-inch jelly-roll pan, reserving about ½ cup of dough to use as a garnish. This kind of crumbly dough may tear when being lifted into pan; it is easily patched by pressing any torn pieces together.

With your fingers, form a ridge around edge of the dough so filling doesn’t run over during baking.

For the filling, pour blueberries into a small mixing bowl. Mash lightly to produce enough juice to moisten berry mixture. Stir in sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel, cornstarch and salt. Spread filling over dough in the pan.

Roll out reserved dough and cut into strips: place in a loose lattice pattern on the filling. Sprinkle top with additional sugar, if desired. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes until golden. Cut into squares to serve. Makes 12 dessert sized squares or 48 smaller squares.


Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com

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