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Bars mix, match fresh or frozen fruits

An outing to pick blueberries intersected perfectly with my family’s recent Rogue River float to fete a friend’s birthday.

A handheld dessert to share on the riverbank emerged from the blueberries, commingled with cherries and blackberries picked earlier in the summer and stashed away in the freezer.

While this recipe calls for strawberries, it’s so easy to mix and match fruits in a basic bar cookie format. And if you can’t pick enough of one type of berry or have little bits of fruit that need a home, consider combining them like I did to yield the total quantity called for here.

I reduced the quantity of sugar by about 1/4 cup in this berry filling and put raw slivered almonds on top because they toast up beautifully during baking. I also wanted less cookie topping than indicated here, so the rest went into a Ziploc bag in the freezer for a mini dessert down the road.

As food writer Gretchen McKay acknowledged, these also can make a sweet breakfast on the go or a mid-afternoon snack.

Tribune News Service photo

Strawberry-Blueberry Crumble Bars

For crust and topping:

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 cups all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

Zest of 1 lemon

1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla or almond extract

For berry filling:

2 1/2 cups blueberries

2 cups chopped strawberries

1/2 cup granulated sugar

4 teaspoons cornstarch

Juice and zest of 1 small lemon

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper, or prepare pan with butter and a dusting of flour.

Prepare crust/topping: In bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment on low speed, combine the granulated sugar, baking powder, flour and salt. Add the lemon zest, butter chunks, egg and vanilla or almond extract. Beat on low speed until butter is evenly distributed in pea-sized pieces and mixture is crumbly. (It should come together when pressed between your fingers.)

Dump about 2/3 of mixture into bottom of prepared pan. Use your fingers or bottom of a glass to evenly press dough into pan, making sure to fill corners. Set aside while you prepare filling.

In a large bowl, gently stir together the berries, cornstarch, sugar and lemon juice and zest until well incorporated. Spread filling over crust, then sprinkle remaining dough mixture over top of berries. Sprinkle the toasted almonds evenly on top.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, until top is light golden brown and fruit looks jammy. Transfer pan to a rack to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Makes 16 to 20 squares.