There’s a Starbucks a block away from my old high school – a Starbucks that got mobbed every weekday lunch with giddy upperclassmen and every night after eight with the local stoners. For me, for some unknown reason, that Starbucks felt like independence. I went with my friends and without my parents to talk about boys, drink coffee in the corner, and pretend that we were at a much cooler place than, well, a Starbucks.
But let’s be honest here. Independence, shmindependence; what I was really excited about was that pastry case. I’m not joking; even if your family wasn’t as unduly health-conscious as mine, that thing was ridiculous. Everything looked good. But even among all of the muffins and cookies and apple fritters (which I got once and which was sorely disappointing), I couldn’t help but be drawn to that damn crumb cake, the one with the brown sugary streusel piled up to half again the height of the cake itself.
It’s “that damn crumb cake” to me now because I got it once, and friends, that thing is deceiving. The cake is dry and the crumb topping is lackluster; it’s an insult to all things streusel. And streusel is simply something too good to mess with.*
That’s why, for this recipe, I went all out on the streusel. In addition to being perhaps unethically delicious, it’s versatile – for these bars, all you have to do is stir together a huge (seriously, don’t skimp here) batch, press 1/2 to 3/4 into the bottom of a pan, top with sliced fruit or jam of your choice, and sprinkle with the rest. I’m including my recipe, but feel free to use your own. Or just sit down with the bowl and a spoon and go to town.
*If you don’t believe me, ask the friend to whom I delivered an entire tub of brown sugar streusel during our senior year in college.
Chocolate Raspberry Streusel Bars
2 cups flour
1 1/2 to 2 sticks butter, softened and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil; grease foil.
Stir together all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 1/2 sticks butter; cut into mixture with two knives or a pastry blender until mixture resembles large, irregular crumbs. If necessary, add more butter and/or flour.
Press 2/3 of crumb mixture onto the bottom of the pan. Bake 12 minutes or until slightly golden. Remove from oven and spread with raspberry jam. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and remaining crumbs. Bake another 14-16 minutes; remove from oven and cool completely. Remove from pan using aluminum foil; cut into bars.