Monday, December 28, 2009
Breakfast Bars with Tart Cherries, Toasted Pecans and Chocolate Chunks
As a self-diagnosed hypoglycemic (I'm not a doctor, but I play one on.. my blog?) I have spent many a pretty couple of dollars on energy-type bars. There are some better versions available these days than the Tiger Milk Bars of my childhood, or those weird 'yogurt' covered thingies we used to take camping, but I guarantee none will compare to the fresh baked taste of these beauties. Like a cross between your favorite chocolate chip cookie, granola bar and trail mix, they are packed with healthful ingredients to give you a boost any time of day. I've tried several different versions of DIY energy type bars; from no-bake varieties held together with nut butters and sticky sweeteners, to soft, cake-like confections. This one meets somewhere in the middle, managing to taste elegantly decadent and heartily healthful all in one tart, sweet, nutty bite.
Most importantly, they are a snap to mix up. Combine the wets, combine the dries, mix together, put them in the oven and forget about them for half an hour or so. What you have are 12 bars of loveliness to keep your blood sugar up all week long.
I have never been one to make new year's resolutions (although I do appreciate how business increases every January at the yoga studio where I do work exchange). They only set you up for disappointment, and why would you want to start the new year criticizing yourself for the way you've behaved in the past? I've also never been one to clean much (just ask Jay or my mom; they will certainly give you an earful), but I find a certain, if grim, enjoyment in organizing the kitchen around this time of year. I unfailingly find multiple bags of obscure flours, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit left over from bygone culinary sessions. Say I needed 3 tablespoons of masa harina for a soup. I bought slightly more, erring on the side of overestimating. Then the remainder sits around for a year or two, getting hidden in the back of the cupboard under similarly diminutive bags of farina, pumpernickel, multigrain mix, or brazil nuts since there's too little to do anything with.
The goodies I put in the bars (dried sour cherries, currants, pecans, chocolate chunks, orange zest) were things that needed using. The measurements are just a guidline, so feel free to experiment with flours, grains, dried fruits, nuts and seeds that my be lurking, neglected, in your cupboard. Add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom, or candied ginger if you fancy.
Perhaps my new years resolution will be to bring measuring cups and spoons to the bulk aisle from now on...
with Tart Cherries, Toasted Pecans, and Chocolate Chunks
Makes 1 8x8" pan, or twelve bars
3/4 cup whole wheat or spelt flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat germ or bran, or oat bran
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons flaxseeds
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped dried sour cherries (or other dried fruit)
3/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans
3 ounces (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted (optionally browned)
1/2 cup brown sugar (dark or light)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
Position a rack in the oven and preheat to 350º. Line an 8x8" pan with parchment paper, letting the sides hang over like a sling. (This will make removing the bars a cinch.)
In a large bowl, whisk together the dries to combine. Stir in the dried fruit, chocolate and nuts.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the wets to combine. Pour them into the dries and stir to combine thoroughly.
Spread evenly in the parchmented pan, and bake for 30-40 minutes. The Bars should feel set and firmish in the center, with browned edges.
Let cool for about 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cut while still warm into 12 bars. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to a week or so, or wrap tightly and freeze for up to a couple months.