Bar None {raspberry streusel bars}

I’m so excited for the deep multiple meanings in the title of this blog post. Sometimes things just come together so perfectly. Let me try to explain.

DSC_0403First of all, this is a recipe for really tasty raspberry streusel bars – so you get the bar reference, obviously. That much is clear. But the Bar None reference is far better. If any of you were Nickelodeon groupies in the late 80’s/early 90’s, then you know what the other reference is: Hey Dude. I remember every word to the opening song with such clarity it’s like I’m back in my middle-school bedroom watching my 13″ TV with built-in VCR while Melody, Brad, Ted, Danny and of course, Mr. Ernst, galavant through the wild west. Does anyone remember the Ranch beauty show episode where Brad’s skill was packing a suitcase? What about when the Hollywood talent scout came to “shoot Ted in the ring”? So many memories.

It doesn’t end there. Somehow the stars aligned in my life and I managed to land a job on a guest ranch outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming for two summers while I was in college. I was Hey Dude. It was awesome (a word way too overused, but appropriate in this case). The ranch itself was situated about 5 miles from Moran Junction, in Grand Teton National Park. I would wake up every morning to one of the most breathtaking landscapes I’ve ever seen. I rode horses for the first time ever, hiked Widow’s Washboard, saw too many bears to count, jumped in a freezing Jackson Lake, had a legitimate reason to wear a cowboy hat and boots and summited the Middle Teton on my last full day (to date) in Wyoming followed by a beer at Dornan’s in Moose. Collectively, it was one of the best experiences of my life.

There were some less glamorous parts too. I was there to clean cabins – which meant scraping hair out of drains and scrubbing toilets, sinks and pots and pans. The second summer I had been hired to be the prep chef, a dream come true, but at the last minute, the head of the cabin girls (what a moniker) backed out, so I instead became queen of the toilet cleaners. When you’re queen, you don’t have to scrub them anymore, you just tell a fleet of your peers how to do it instead.

I wonder sometimes what would have happened had I become the prep chef. Would I have decided to do something more formal with my cooking? Would I have ended up hating it because I wasn’t in control? Who knows. What I do know is that I would have been able to make this recipe for raspberry streusel bars years earlier. Until I stumbled across this recipe last week during a holiday baking extravaganza at home, I had forgotten all about them and how Elaine used to make them for the rest of the crew all the time. Besides the twice-baked potatoes on campfire nights, these raspberry bars were my favorite things from my time at Moose Head.

All of this is a really long-winded way of bringing you this recipe (isn’t that what this whole blog is about?):

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats (not instant)
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 raspberry jam
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries (one package)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Before we start, preheat your oven to 375°F. Now get excited. Line a 13″ by 9″ baking pan with foil (I taught you this in the pecan bar recipe. I love bars, apparently).

Whisk together the flour, granulated sugar and salt together in a large bowl. Beat in 16 (of the 18) tablespoons of softened butter into the flour mixture at low speed until you reach that delicious “wet sand” consistency I love so much. Set aside 1 1/4 cups of the mixture for the topping. Press the rest into the prepared pan and bake until it begins to brown – about 15 to 18 minutes depending on your oven.

DSC_0309Mix together the reserved crust mixture, oats, nuts and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Add the last two tablespoons of butter and get your hands dirty. Mix em up with your fingers until things are crumbly.

DSC_0300In a small bowl, mash up the raspberries in the lemon juice and jam until just a few bits of raspberries remain.

DSC_0320When the crust is ready, pull it out of the oven and pour the raspberry mixture over the hot crust. Sprinkle that with streusel topping next.

DSC_0338Now bake that for 22 to 25 minutes until it looks like this (but, you know, in the pan).

DSC_0365This photo is post-cooling. I let the bars stay in the pan for about 3 hours before I lifted them out. Then I trimmed off all the edges so things would be even. I then ate all of the edges I trimmed off.

Cut into bars and devour.