Wild Huckleberry Oat Bars with Lemon
I’m your huckleberry…
Quoting Tombstone, of course. Possibly the best western film ever made. Granted, it’s the only western I’ve ever seen, but I can’t imagine they get better. Kurt Russell as peacemaker Wyatt Earp; eyes as blue as the Caribbean. Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday, with the fastest hands in the west, not to mention unparalleled swagger. Even I want to be him. Michael Biehn as the villainous Johnny Ringo. Sam Elliot with that voice flowing like honey. Poker, gun slinging, romance, revenge, legend, and the wild west. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time. If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it.
Which is exactly what I told my husband when we rented it on Amazon last weekend. I was so excited; convinced he’d love it. We put the kids to bed, snuggled on the couch with a glass of wine and a bowl of popcorn. The movie begins in quintessential western style. Cowboys, outlaws really, galloping on horses, dust flying violently from their feet; the music dramatic and building; something bad is on the horizon. I look over at my husband, expecting to see his face lit up. Best western ever EVER. And…he’s asleep. We barely got past the opening credits and he’s snoring like a gorilla.
This is not my husband’s first offense. Apparently my favorite films serve as his favorite lullaby.
Before Val Kilmer’s infamous line in Tombstone, “I’m your huckleberry,” I had never heard of the mountain fruit. Growing up in a Southern California beach town it wasn’t an ingredient often used. I didn’t even know what they looked like. But in Jackson, WY, huckleberries grow wild. And they’re delicious. Huckleberry honey, huckleberry jam, huckleberry syrup. It’s the berry of the wild west.
I came across some wild huckleberries at the local farmer’s market and couldn’t resist. Beloved by locals and bears, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Huckleberries are very similar to blueberries, it’s a challenge to tell them apart, but a huckleberry’s flavor is more intense. For a small berry they pack quite a punch; tart and tangy with a sweet finish. Their color a vibrant purple, they’re ideal for fresh and fruity summer desserts.
A huckleberry’s uniquely bright flavor makes them a perfect pairing for hearty oats, brown sugar, and lemon. If you’re not in a mountain town, huckleberries can be a challenge to find, so substitute blueberries freely. These delicious and healthy bars are best enjoyed warm, topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, and while watching your favorite western. And if someone falls asleep, well, more wild huckleberry bars for you.
Wild Huckleberry Oat Bars with Lemon
* Makes 18 bars
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
- 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 egg, separated
- 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 3 cups wild huckleberries (or blueberries)
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a 13x9 metal baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a slight overhang on both sides to lift the bars out. Butter the paper so the bars don't stick.
- In a large bowl, whisk the flour, oats, brown sugar, salt and baking powder together.
- Using a pastry blender, or your fingers, cut the butter into the dry ingredients. The mixture should resemble small crumbs.
- Set aside and save 2 cups of these crumbs for the topping.
- Beat the egg white with a fork until light and foamy. Add it to the crumbs and mix to incorporate.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and press to form an even layer of crust.
- Bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until the top starts to look lightly browned.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the condensed milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, and egg yolk. Let stand for 5 minutes; the mixture will begin to thicken slightly.
- When the crust has finished baking, transfer the pan to a wire rack and sprinkle the huckleberries evenly over the warm crust. Drop spoonfuls of the lemon mixture over the huckleberries then spread the lemon mixture gently to distribute. Work carefully so you don't crush the berries.
- Bake until the lemon layer begins to form a shiny surface, about 7-8 minutes. Remove the pan to a wire rack and use your fingers to press the saved crumb mixture into small clumps and sprinkle them over the lemon layer. Use all of the crumb mixture to cover the lemon layer completely. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling at the edges and the streusel topping is golden brown.
- Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the bars cool for about an hour, until just warm. Remove them from the pan using the foil overhang and let cool completely on the wire rack. Cut into squares before serving.
- The bars should be stored in the refrigerator.