Expect the Unexpected

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Recipe Reveal: Blueberry Shortbread


We were watching an old episode of Dirty Jobs the other night where host Mike Rowe goes to Maine to pick wild blueberries and make pies with the Pie Moms of Berry Manor Inn.  A really fun show that gave my husband a hankering for something blueberry…. but not pie. Oh, and not cake. The two things I would usually whip up with blueberries. He wanted something “different.”

Hmmm…. The gauntlet was thrown and I accepted. Off to Google.

I came across recipes for Blueberry Crisp and Blueberry Crumb Bars. No, I’ve made those before. He said “different.” But when Jerry says “different” he doesn’t mean something exotic like Blueberry Lavender Cream Pie or Blueberry Brie Tart Ice Cream. Being married to him for more than three decades I’ve gotten to understand his meaning of “different.” He actually means “not different.”

Blueberry Shortbread baked and cooling.

Blueberry Shortbread baked and cooling.

I found a recipe and video by Chef John for Blueberry Shortbread, a delicious sounding bar cookie filled with fresh blueberries, similar to a crumb bar. I was intrigued. It sounded quite good, and a snap to make. The video was an extra perk, although the recipe was pretty straightforward.

There were 48 reviews on Allrecipes for this recipe. Many said they made substitutions for the Chinese five-spice powder that was called for in the base. Since I didn’t have any five-spice powder, and being a cheap Yankee (yes cheap, not frugal), I didn’t want to buy a jar just for this recipe. So, I substituted cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, flavors I like, and kicked the amount of spice up a notch.

Sliced and ready to serve.

Sliced and ready to serve.

I made a couple more changes. I like lemon with blueberries, it brings out their flavor, so I added some grated lemon rind to them. Instead of all white sugar, I used white and brown sugar. And the 3/4 cup of blueberries the recipe called for just didn’t seem like enough, so I used a full pint.

Fortunately, I didn’t tweak that poor recipe to death. The resulting Blueberry Shortbread was very good — a flavorful crumb bar with a cookie base, bursting with fresh blueberries. Just “different” enough.

Chef John’s helpful video:

Blueberry Shortbread (my variation)

Base and crumbs:
1/2 cup (one stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes then placed in freezer for about 15 minutes
1 and 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
Pinch nutmeg
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon ice water, or more if needed ( I used one teaspoon. Use less than you think you need.)

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind (or to taste)
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 pint fresh blueberries (rinsed, completely dried, and de-stemmed)


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Whisk together flour, sugars, salt, baking powder, and spices in a large bowl.
3. Cut in frozen butter using a pastry cutter until the butter pieces are about the size of peas. Mix in egg yolk and continue cutting in until thoroughly combined.
4. Drizzle in ice water and stir to combine. The dough should just come together when pinched between your fingers.
5. Pour about 3/4 of the crumb mixture into an ungreased 9×9-inch baking dish. Press the mixture down firmly using the back of a spoon.
6. In a small bowl combine the blueberries, 1 tablespoon white sugar, and lemon rind. Spread blueberries on top of the shortbread and sprinkle with remaining crumbly dough.
7. Bake in the preheated oven until the top is golden and sides are crisp and browned, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into 16 bars and serving.

Click here for Chef John’s original recipe.

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One thought on “Recipe Reveal: Blueberry Shortbread

  1. These look so good I want it now! This short bread is very healthy and I am sure that it tastes fantastic. I will make these for my daughters, I am going to serve these to my dieting group on Saturday. I love that you use an abundance of blueberries, I do as well.

    Blueberries also cause great fat loss, click my name to see.

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