Could it be love?
It might be lust. I had been lusting over a jar of deep purple huckleberry preserves my grandfather’s good friend sent from a local farm in Montana. The ingredients plainly labeled on the small glass jar put me over the edge with delight- huckleberries, sugar, lemon. Three ingredients! The way I would have treated these little berries in my own kitchen is all ready in a jar to go. I had to do them justice; they deserved to be the star of a dessert. Haphazardly slathering them on toast just didn’t feel right. While racking my brain about the right way to treat the huckleberries, I decided to consult my muse, Jimbo America. If you did not know , that’s my American Bulldog mix.
After watching him try to bury his new rawhide bone in several unsuccessful attempts, we chased each other around in the mid-winter warmth. It was 72 degrees and sunny today. The weather reminded me of so many leisurely spring picnics of the past. Picnic inspired, huckleberry motivated, the crumble bar came to life.
The secret ingredient in this cookie bar is coconut milk. It yields a moist and rich bottom layer that marries the berry flavor with a hint of apricot preserves and buttery almond crust. For a healthier twist, I used spelt flour instead of white, used organic whole rolled oats and dark brown sugar. This is another vegan “dessert” that can just as easily be labeled a snack or even breakfast on the run. As a model, I ran wild with the original recipe from Smitten Kitchen’s blueberry crumb bars.
Huckleberry Crumble Bars– very loosely adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Crust & Crumble:
1 1/2 cups spelt flour
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups organic whole rolled oats
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon & ginger
1 tsp clove
1 tbsp vegan butter + 10 oz coconut milk
1/2 cup sliced almonds
10 oz huckleberry preserves
2 oz apricot preserves
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a small rectangle pan with cooking spray and parchment paper that hangs over the edges. Prepare the crust and crumble topping.
In the food processor, combine all the ingredients excluding the butter, coconut milk, and almonds. Pulse a few times until the oats are smaller but not ground into flour. Pour into bowl. Add vegan butter and coconut milk. Mix with a wooden spoon or a hand mixer until a soft dough is formed. Set 1 1/2 cups of the mix aside for the topping. Press the remaining dough into the parchment lined pan and bake for about 20 minutes or lightly brown. Let cool completely. I put mine in the freezer while I made the crumble.
Add the almonds to the reserved crumble portion of the dough and mix until it just comes together. In a separate bowl, fold the apricot preserves into the huckleberry.
Spread the preserve filling onto the cooled crust. By hand, place pieces of the crumble over the filling, making sure there are not too many holes exposed. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown and the huckleberry jam is bubbling on the sides. Let it cool completely to set up firmness. I let mine sit overnight in the fridge.
Yields about 12 bars.