Mango Oatmeal Crumble Bars – Another Way to Savor the Belizean Fruit
Belize doesn’t have the typical seasons throughout the year. We have the standards: dry and rainy. Not to be outdone however, Belizeans categorize their year based on seasonal fruit – and if it’s one time of the year we look forward to, it’s Mango Season. With over twenty types of mangoes grown in Belize, the variety makes us a little crazy about the sweet fruit. The season typically starts in May and is in its peak both June and July.
Once the trees start producing in ample bunches, the fruit begin ripening under the hot sun, tempting the most hardcore of mango lovers. Nearly everyone has fond memories of scaling the trees to pick the tasty fruit. Some extra naughty kids always tell that tale of them hiding in the thick bushes to scale a low branch or two and nick some mangoes from the neighbors. The laughter is louder when the story takes a turn and the neighbor catches them!
So strong is the love for mangoes in Belize, that an annual Mango Festival is held in the beautiful seaside village of Hopkins in Stann Creek. The festival celebrates the fruit in its various stages, including gourmet dishes prepared by talented chefs. Two days of culture, food and music celebrate the delectable mango, ushering in the peak of the season.
These heavenly sweet treats are perfect just as is, biting into the skin with one’s teeth, juice running down chins and elbows. As the season goes into full effect, delicious mangoes litter the floor underneath the trees. Sometimes, a bounty can be just a bit much to handle, and creative cooks turn to a variety of preparations to take advantage of this season. At the risk of sounding like Bubba from Forrest Gump, there’s so many ways to enjoy this fruit: mango preserves and jams, tasty custards, chutneys, yogurt, smoothies, margaritas, sorbets, popsicles and ice creams. Fresh mango cheesecakes sound like a dream, and then there’s pies, galettes, crumbles and cakes…and an always-easy delight, Mango Oatmeal Crumble Bars.
Mangoes are a stone fruit, and their flesh is perfect for these oatmeal bars. This particular recipe is wicked easy, with ingredients that you probably already have at home. The finished product could almost be called mango jam bars, the way the fruit cooks down into a delicious jelly. If you do make them, imagine you’re enjoying them while listening to the rolling waves of the Caribbean Sea on the beach in Belize!
For the crust and crumble topping
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup old-fashioned whole-rolled oats (quick cook or instant oatmeal are too fine and will behave like flour, making the mixture too dry)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
For the mango layer
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh ripe mango
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons corn starch
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray; set aside.
For the Crust and Crumble Topping
Melt butter, then add the flour, oats, sugars, optional salt, and stir to combine.
Mixture will be dry and sandy with some larger, well-formed crumble pieces.
Set 1 heaping cup mixture aside to be sprinkled on later as crumble topping.
Transfer remaining mixture to prepared pan, and using a spatula or your fingers, hard-pack the mixture to create an even, smooth, flat crust; set aside.
In that same mixing bowl if you wish, add all remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Sugar may not dissolve fully, and that’s okay because it liquifies while baking.
Evenly distribute mango mixture over the prepared crust.
Sprinkle with the reserved cup of crumble topping mixture.
Bake for about 50 minutes, or until edges are set and center has just set.
Topping should appear set and a pale golden, with the mango filling bubbling along the edges.
If the mangoes were very juicy, prepare to keep the bars baking a little longer, all while being careful not to burn the bottom!
Let bars cool completely before slicing and serving. The cooling process firms the bars – especially the crumble topping, so you avoid a mess.
Once cooled and sliced, enjoy.