Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sweet Sunday: fruit, oat, and nut bars



It was one of those weekends when I really wanted to bake - only to find out that I didn't have any butter. Not in the refrigerator, and not even any extra stocked up in the freezer. Gasp!

So I surveyed what I had in the fridge and pantry... and then I remembered these fruit, oat, and nut bars that I made a long time ago.

I've been loving this very versatile recipe. It's like a cross between a granola bar and a cookie -- it's less dry than most packaged granola bars, but it's still not as rich and indulgent as regular cookies. I've made them with fig preserves and had someone comment, "It's like fancier Fig Newtons!"

But my favorite combination has to be orange marmalade and dark chocolate, which is one of the flavor pairings that I truly love, as you can tell from here and here.

Anyway, here is the recipe. It's not a very delicate kind of cookie, so feel free to play around with flavors. Berry preserves would be wonderful in the summer, and I bet apple butter (plus cinnamon mixed into the crust) would be great in the fall. If you don't have almond meal, you can sub with flour. I would probably also adjust the sugar in the recipe depending on how sweet your fruit preserves are.

Fruit, Oat, and Nut Bars

Filling

  • 1 jar fruit preserves (about 12 ounces), at room temperature - my favorite for this recipe is Bonne Maman orange marmalade; I love it because it doesn't add too much sweetness as the marmalade is on the bittersweet side
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried fruit of your choice AND/OR
  • 1 3-oz dark chocolate bar, chopped (I use Green & Black dark chocolate; you can also use about a half cup or so of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips)

Crust and Topping

  • 1 3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not the instant oats - you'll want the texture of rolled oats)
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup almond meal
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (I used a combination of walnuts and almonds)
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil, melted OR 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten OR 1 "flax egg" (1 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons water)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x13x2 inch baking pan, then line with parchment paper (enough paper so that you have excess on both ends of the pan).  

2. Combine all the dry ingredients for the crust. Mix well so that everything is incorporated. Add the vanilla to the "flax egg" or the lightly beaten egg, then mix into the dry ingredients until clumps start forming.

3. Take half of the mixture and press into the baking pan with your hands until you have an even layer. Bake it in the oven for 10 minutes.

4. Take the pan out of the oven and spread the fruit preserves over the top, then add your dried fruit or chocolate pieces. Spread the remaining crust/topping mixture on top to cover the fruit and chocolate.

5. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes.

6. Let cool slightly in the pan, then take a butter knife to loosen the sides from the pan. Cool completely then remove from the pan and slice into bars. This process is much easier if you use the parchment paper - so you can lift the entire thing out of the pan. It's also much easier to make clean slices when it's cold or at room temperature than fresh out of the oven.



This cookie has such wonderful flavors and textures playing together - the slightly sweet, crunchy oats and nuts, the sweet and sticky preserves, and dark, slightly gooey chocolate (if you eat it warm). The nuts in the topping get nice and toasted, adding another dimension of flavor. 

A sweet reward after getting tax filing done!

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2 comments:

Dianne Khu said...

Mia, I can so relate to you when you said, you're so in the mood to bake only to find out you don't have butter! I was supposed to bake this weekend, but got sick... today, was just to relax. Will probably bake next week - and yes, I bought me some good ol' butter!

Mia said...

Hi Dianne! I know... so last night I finally stocked up on supplies!
Sorry to hear you were sick... :( Feel better!

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