Berserka Blueberry Mazurka: A Fruity, Decadent Treat Year-Round!

Winter is upon us with a force!  That old man is making things quite cold, and there's nothing more desirable than snuggling under the covers with some comforting flavors.  Some might prefer a savory bowl of soup, but for others, their sweet tooth screams for some warm, rich, decadence. For the latter type, this is right up your alley, and as usual, I put a wicked twist on it.

Before I continue on to this recipe, there's a spontaneous beginning to this story.  As a frequent patron of the popular Freetail Brewing Co in San Antonio, I've come to know many a regular, and many of the employees of the joint.  So much so, that my cooking becomes a frequent topic, and I'm known to bring in some of my dishes on occasion.  The folks that work there never hesitate to return the favor.  In fact, the head brewer, Jason Davis, let my better half and I sample one of his treasured pastries from The Great Harvest Bread Co, the blueberry mazurka.  Problem was, I did not arrive early enough to sample any!  The boys ate them all before I got the chance!  Some of the waitstaff insisted, that I could make something just as good, if not better.  To my astonishment, I wondered how I would create something, sight unseen.  All I had was a name and a description.  "It's called a mazurka, and it's kinda granola-ey, or maybe strudel-ey, and it has blueberry jam in the middle," is what I was told.  Not the most accurate sketch, but I saw it as a culinary challenge.  After a bit of research, I discovered that it's a traditional Polish pastry, served at weddings and similar special occasions.  The fruit filling can vary, but the structure is very much the same.  I also realized that it's not too far off from my popular Crowned Blackberry Cobbler recipe, so I decided to take a page out of my own book too.  This one also has a spiked surprise, but with some Polish inspiration.

Cara's "Berserka" Blueberry Mazurka

for the filling:

-  6 oz box, fresh Blueberries
-  1/4 cup Blueberry Vodka (Stoli is best)
-  1/4 cup Water
-  2 tablespoons Granulated Sugar
-  1 teaspoon Cornstarch

for the pastry:

-  1 and 1/4 cups Flour
-  1 cup Brown Sugar
-  3/4 cup Rolled Oats
-  1 and 1/2 sticks Butter, softened
-  1/2 cup chopped Walnuts
-  1/4 teaspoon Salt

To start, combine all the ingredients for the fruit filling in a medium saucepan, and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Once you see the filling thicken, and bubbles start to surface, take the filling off the heat, and allow to cool completely.  It will thicken a bit more when cooled.  You can also use the filling as homemade jam!  Set the filling aside until ready to assemble.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  Grease and line (with foil or parchment paper) an 8x8 baking dish or brownie pan and set aside.  Combine all pastry ingredients in a large bowl and mix with an electric hand mixer until a crumbly, strudel-like texture (use your hands if you have to, but don't let the butter melt!).  

Assembly:  Take have of your pastry mixture and press firmly and evenly into the bottom of your prepared baking pan.  Take your fully cooled blueberry filling, and spread over the bottom layer of pastry crust.  With the remaining half of your pastry crust, evenly sprinkle over the fruit layer and press gently, making sure that minimal filling seeps out from the top.  Slide your pan into the top rack of the preheated oven, and gently bake for 60 mins.  Cool the pastry for at least 15-20 mins before removing from an and cutting into squares.  Use a sharp knife to ensure tall, even cuts.

I would encourage you to cut into smaller squares than the 9-brownie-per-pan standard.  These bars have a mountain of flavor and can be very rich, yet addicting!  In case you haven't figured it out by now, "berserka" is a play on words.  Thanks to the spirited punch of the blueberry vodka, it's a little berserk, isn't it??  Enjoy the secret decadence of eastern Europe, and have an amazing holiday season with those you love.

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