Fresh berries pair perfectly with whole wheat in these blackberry crumb bars to make a moist and delicious bar that's perfect as a dessert or coffee cake. Find more easy recipes on the Simple Cookie Recipes page.
One of the things I've done with our kids almost every summer is to pick wild blackberries. We head out to the nearest fence line or country road and eat our fill of sun-ripened berries before we add them to our containers to bring home. We make freezer jam, berry crisps, and eat even more fresh.
But I always make sure to save enough for at least one batch of these whole wheat blackberry crumb bars - they are such a delicious balance of slightly sweet dough and pockets of pure berries with a crunchy "big crumb" topping!
If you know anything about Oregon, it's that blackberries grow wild everywhere here (well, western Oregon and up into western Washington). And I do mean everywhere. About the only time we love our wild blackberries is August when they can be picked from just about anywhere your feet take you.
The rest of the year? Well, it's a matter of trying to cut them back, hack them down or dig them out - or even (dare I say it?) poison them - all in an effort to keep them under control. In fact, Brian and I recently recorded a podcast where we talk about dealing with invasive blackberries and share our "secret" about them.
We want them off our property, but we're happy to pick along road sides in August!
Oh, but summer and blackberries...sigh. For all their invasiveness, our wild blackberries are incredibly flavorful (though not as much as Triple Crown Thornless blackberries!) and make wonderful jam and crisps (um, like my favorite fruit crisp recipe, which I make about 1,000 times during the summer!).
Whole Wheat Blackberry Crumb Bars
The crumb topping, as you can see from the top photo, is much more like a solid dough than a crumbly topping. And that's good. We're even making it first and sticking in the fridge so it gets nice and firm before breaking off pieces to create the topping. It's how we get the almost solid, super crunchy and deep crumbs. Who knows? You may find this is the only way you like crumb topping from now on!
The other two things to note are that the batter will be lumpy after adding the eggs to the sugar-butter mixture - which is okay. And when you add the remaining dough ingredients, your will beat until it comes together just like a cake batter (last photo above).
Can I use frozen blackberries?
While these are very good with fresh berries, they are just as good with frozen berries - if you use this tip to avoid a too-wet dough or mushy middle:
To use frozen berries, thaw the berries just a bit (not enough that they start producing lots of liquid - just enough to soften) and mix them with a tablespoon of flour. Sprinkle on top of dough as usual. Bake about 5 minutes longer than fresh.
In fact, I used frozen berries in this batch, so all the photos you see show how they come out with frozen berries.
You can see in the photo above that you literally break off pieces of the chilled topping to create nice, big crumbs. They will puff and bake together creating the best topping ever - I promise!
See what I mean? Doesn't that topping make you just want to cut into it right now?
And oh my, are they good - especially fresh right out of the oven!
They are perfect for taking to summer gatherings and for afternoon snacks with a glass of milk or cup of tea. Perfection, right there.
P.S. If you're wondering how these blackberry crumb bars can be so light and fluffy with whole wheat, it's because they're made with whole wheat pastry flour. It has all the health benefits of whole wheat, but is made with a lighter soft white wheat that works great in all kinds of quick breads, muffins, and cookies.
Along with lower sugar amounts and other real food ingredients, you can feel great about serving these to your family and friends.
Whole Wheat Blackberry Crumb Bars
- 6 tablespoons butter melted
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon optional
- 6 tablespoons butter softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ to 2 cups fresh blackberries* see extra note on using frozen berries
For the Topping:
- Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, mixing until there are large crumbs and no flour is visible. Refrigerate while continuing with the recipe.
For the Bars:
- Heat oven to 350 degrees and line a 8x8 pan** with parchment, leaving two ends to hang over the sides.
- In a mixer bowl, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs and beat well (it will be lumpy). Mix in flour, baking powder and salt well until everything is thoroughly combined. Spread dough evenly in lined pan.
- Add a layer of blackberries over the dough. Top with the chilled crumb topping, being careful to leave lots of the large pieces intact to create a big crumb on the bars.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes until golden brown.
- Cool in pan before lifting out by parchment to cut on a board.
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