Lemon-Basil-Blueberry Bars (adapted from Cookie Cookbook, 1985)

Lemon-Basil-Blueberry Bars are simple bar cookies that sum up everything I like about the Country Kitchen Collection’s Cookie Cookbook.  The recipe is elegant in its simplicity and not overly complicated.  And while it focuses primarily on highlighting bright flavors from fresh ingredients, it’s not too proud to use an instant pudding mix as its base.   It illustrates perfectly Ms. Childress’ penchant for livening up old Good Housekeeping standards with fresh, bright flavors.  It’s also stupid simple to make.

Be forewarned that this is not the standard gooey translucent lemon bar that most Americans are accustomed to.  It starts with a similar shortbread crust, but the filling has a consistency more like a fudge brownie.  And as much as a love a good mouth-puckering lemon bar, Lemon-Basil-Blueberry Bars are mellow and balanced.  Where traditional lemon bars are gleefully one note, the blueberries give these cookies a fresh-from-the-garden vibe.  Think lemon drops versus blueberry pancakes.

In adapting this recipe I have to take credit for adding the basil – the original is a simple Lemon Blueberry Bar.   There’s nothing really that needed fixing in the original, but I can’t resist pairing blueberries with fresh basil.  There was a local donut shop a few years back that sold blueberry-basil donuts and I’ve been hooked ever since.  Blueberries accentuate the floral qualities in the basil, and the final product seems to fit the garden fresh vibe of the original.  I think Ms. Childress would approve.

This recipe is best made in the summer, when both blueberries and basil are fresh and in season.   Frozen blueberries will work in a pinch but tend to be sweeter and more intense.  I find them perfectly satisfying on their own, but feel free to top with a dollop of freshly whipped cream or a pat of ice cream.  Enjoy!

Lemon-Blueberry-Basil Bars

Lemon-Basil-Blueberry Bars (adapted from Cookie Cookbook, 1985)

  • Preparation: 15 min
  • Cooking: 40 min
  • Ready in: 55 min
  • For: 12 bars
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Ingredients

For the crust:

For the filling:

Instructions

For the crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. Mix flour, sugar, and salt (if desired) in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until mixture is uniform and resembles small pea-sized crumbs. Press into the bottom of a small glass baking dish (mine is 7 x 11) and cook 15 minutes.

For the filling:

  1. Whisk together eggs, sugar, lemon rind, and butter. Pour in the dry pudding mix and basil and stir, then fold in blueberries.
  2. When the crust is cooked, spread the filling evenly across the top. It will form a very thin layer, about the thickness of a single blueberry. Return to the oven and bake 20 - 30 minutes until edges are browned and center is cooked through (it will look a little bit bubbly).
  3. Cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

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