I couldn't help but remember a class I attended at a blog conference last winter all about styling your dishes for food photography. All sorts of wisdom on the perfect props, how to style a dish for a photo, how to balance the textures, how to build your own distressed barnwood backdrops to put your plate of cookies in front of for a photo. And I'm sitting at the back of the class going uuuummmmmm lol.
So lower those expectations--a little more--a liiiiiittle bit more--and just trust me that the focus of this post was solely on yummy bars and definitely not on fancy photography. Forget a professionally styled photo. I HOLD THE DANG BAR AND I TAKE A PICTURE AND THAT'S AS GOOD AS IT'S GONNA GET.
These bars are a mashup of two recipes: the crust comes from these Strawberry Cake Bars, and the fresh strawberry filling is slightly tweaked from this Strawberry Pie recipe.
The bars as written in that link above look all sorts of gooey and delicious--but I am not the world's biggest fan of canned pie filling, and I just happened to have some fresh strawberries in the fridge, so I used the strawberry pie recipe to make a quick homemade filling instead.
If you are crazy about strawberries and want lots of gooey strawberry filling in your bars, I'd recommend doubling the filling (or follow that pie link above, which is already doubled for you!). But as the recipe is written below, we loved these bars--even Jeff, who isn't a strawberry lover, said he thought they were perfect. Enough fruity filling to give you a perfect punch of flavor, without being too much fruit and too little crust.
You'll start out with some chopped fresh strawberries--set 1 cup aside for now, and mash up 1 cup (I used my food processor).
In a separate bowl, you'll mix together a cake mix, oats, and butter. That's it for the crust. Easy peasy. I wonder if anyone will find it odd that I was insistent on a homemade filling, but totally fine with a cake mix? I maintain that homemade everything is almost always better--but cake mixes certainly have a charm of their own.
Press 2/3rds of the oat mixture into a greased pan.
Then toss your reserved cup of strawberries in with your ooey-gooey strawberry filling and mix it up.
And spread that goodness all over the crust.
Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the top once you've smoothed the filling out over every last inch of crust.
And bake it up.
I feel like I ought to tell you to let it cool, but I think I lasted about 2 minutes. We were digging it out with a spoon almost as soon as it came out of the oven. You do you.
Strawberry Oat Bars
1 box yellow cake mix
2 1/2 cups quick oats
3/4 cup melted butter
2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped and divided (2 portions of 1 cup each)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.
In a food processor (or with a bowl and fork!), mash 1 cup of strawberries. Place them in a small saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the sugar and cornstarch. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it reaches a boil, then continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool.
As the strawberry filling cools, combine the cake mix, oats, and butter in a large bowl; mix until it is all moistened. It'll be dry and crumbly. Dump 2/3rds of the mixture into the prepared pan, and press evenly across the bottom of the pan.
Add the remaining 1 cup chopped strawberries to the strawberry filling and stir to combine. Spread filling evenly over prepared crust. Crumble remaining oat topping evenly over the filling.
Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Let it cool completely before cutting . . . if you can.