Saturday, January 19, 2013

Gluten- and Dairy-Free Breakfast Bars with Apricots, Prunes and Almonds


When I was laid up with a nasty cold three Decembers ago, I spent several days doing little other than reading though Deb's archives. This year, I was thrilled to get my mitts on The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, which my dad sent me on my mid-December birthday (thanks, Dad!). Since I am almost always sick on my birthday*, I spent the next three days in bed, reading the book from cover to cover.


You clearly like food, and blogs, so you almost certainly know that with Deb's superb writing and photographs, this was entirely possible. You probably did the same thing and ended up with a severe craving for that chicken roasted over marble potatoes, too.


Now that I'm well, I've been cooking my way through the breakfast section – first the gingerbread dutch baby, then the baked ranchero eggs. The sweet potato blintzes are as amazing as they look, and they're fun to make, too. I knew these breakfast bars would be perfect for my health-conscious cousin, a new mom who needs lots of easy and energy-efficient snacks.


Since my cousin is allergic to the dates called for in the original recipe, I experimented with different dried fruit. Since both plums and apricots get on famously with almonds, they were a natural choice, and I like that they both contain a bit of tartness. These fruits turned out chewier than the dates in the baked bars, since they contain fewer moisture-retaining sugars, so I plumped them in a bit of warm orange juice, which fixed them right up.


I also made them gluten-free since it was so easy. I traded the wheat flour for oat flour, the wheat germ for ground flaxseed to help stick things together, and I upped the almond butter to further help them adhere, and because I loved its presence so that I wanted even more of it.


The bars are parsimoniously flavored with a whisper of cinnamon and orange zest and a drop of almond extract. These, combined with honey and olive oil, give the bars a distinctly Mediterranean flair that allows the other ingredients to shine. As Deb aptly puts it, they still taste like a treat.


It's a good thing they are so healthy, because I've developed a sort of psychological dependence on them. I so appreciate having them on hand for those moments in the day when I suddenly find myself hungry enough to gnaw off my own hand and, blind with hunger, reach for the first thing I see. It's a happy coincidence when that thing is a container full of these nourishing bars.


It goes without saying that these make an ideal snack for a hike, a camping trip, or an early morning at work. And it's hard to resist packaging them up to give to friends and family.


If you do, I guarantee you will not be the only one smitten with these heavenly bars.


*You can listen to my thoughts on this topic in a song I wrote (and performed with my band) here.

Desserts for breakfast:
Gluten-Free Banana Buckwheat Pancakes
Cardamom Pear Oven Pancake
Breakfast Bars with Tart Cherries, Chocolate and Pecans

Almond, Prune and Apricot Breakfast Bars


Since there is such a small amount of flour here, you could probably substitute a gluten-free all-purpose blend if you preferred. And you could swap out the apricots and prunes for just about any dried fruit that is soft and moist - I think figs would be nice, too. If you or your bar-eaters are very sensitive to gluten, be sure to seek out gluten-free oats and oat flour. A good, flavorful honey will make these extra-delicious (I use an amazing blackberry honey that we get in bulk at our co-op). All ounce measurements are by weight.

Makes twelve 2x3" bars (an 8x8" pan)

scant 1/2 teaspoon zest from 1/4 of a large orange
2-3 tablespoons orange juice from half a large orange
1/2 cup (3 1/4 ounces) dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup (3 1/4 ounces) prunes, chopped

2/3 cup (2 3/4 ounces) sliced almonds, plus a few extra for the top
1 1/2 cups (5 ounces) quick (baby) oats
2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) flax seed, ground in a coffee or spice grinder
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) oat flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (3 ounces) almond butter
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) olive oil
1/4 cup (2 3/4 ounces) honey
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325º. Line the bottom and sides of an 8x8" square baking pan with parchment paper and set aside. 

Zest the 1/4 of orange into a medium bowl and set aside. Place the chopped apricots and prunes in another medium bowl and set aside. Juice half of the orange into a small saucepan and bring to a bare simmer over a medium flame, swirling occasionally. Pour the hot juice over the dried fruit and let sit to absorb, tossing once or twice, while you get on with the recipe. 

Spread the almonds on a small baking sheet and toast in the oven until fragrant, 4-5 minutes. In a large bowl, stir together the toasted almonds, oats, ground flax, oat flour, salt and cinnamon.

To the bowl with the orange zest, add the almond butter, olive oil, honey and almond extract and whisk to combine. 

Add the almond butter mixture and the dried fruit mixture to the oat mixture and stir until well combined.

Scrape the mixture into the lined baking pan and use moistened fingers to press it firmly and evenly into the pan. Press a few extra sliced almonds into the top if you like. Bake the bars until the top is golden, 25-30 minutes. Let cool completely, then use the parchment paper "handles" to remove the bar to a cutting board. Use a large, sharp chef's knife to cut the bar into 12 rectangles. 

The bars keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

16 comments:

  1. Love these Alanna! Whenever I try to make breakfast bars with tons of healthy ingredients...they fall apart :( Maybe it's time to follow a recipe for once and make these. Great pics as usual!

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    1. Thanks, Angela! These are a tad crumbly, but they hold together well enough. Please let me know if you give them a go!

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  2. We listened to your song! Fantastic and funny!

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  3. They look delicious! As a vegan though I'd have to sub out the honey with maple syrup or agave!

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    1. Hm, that's an excellent point! I know vegans who swing both ways with honey, but I'd better change the title to cover bases. Thanks for the reminder. :)

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  4. Yum! Just made these! Used dried apricots and tart dried cherries, and for fun, threw in a half cup of white chocolate chips. Came out super tasty! Thanks for sharing! I love so many of your recipes! Thanks again!

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    1. I'm so glad you like them! Tart cherries and white chocolate sound like a brilliant combo. Thanks for commenting. :)

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  5. These look delish and healthy. My cousin sent me to this site because she's aware of my gluten intolerance and oh what a treat I've found here. I'm headed for the grocery store after work today so that I can stock up on these bars too. Have you seen the price per bar in the health food stores? Thanks.

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    1. Yes - storebought bars are super pricey, and these ones are better than all of them. Deb is the best! Please let us all know how they come out. Happy baking!

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  6. We can't tolerate oats, but are looking for a good bar. Can you suggest something. We have made home made Uber Lara Bars that were delish, but would like something more like granola...without the oats. Thanks for the help!!!

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    1. Hi, Sonja! I'm assuming you folks can't tolerate any gluten, right? I did a few google searches, and it looks like they are making grain flakes out of everything these days! You might try rice, quinoa, millet or buckwheat flakes in place of the oats. I think millet or buckwheat will likely have the best flavor, but any combination of these rolled grains would probably work. (Here's a recipe that uses buckwheat and quinoa flakes where oats are usually used: http://foodfreefoodie.blogspot.com/2012/04/azuki-and-quinoa-flapjacks.html)

      As for the flour, you might try millet, coconut, or buckwheat flour, or any GF all-purpose blend.

      Please let me know what you end up trying!

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  7. Hallo Alanna, great recipe for breakfast, thanks for the step by step instructions.

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    1. You're so very welcome - glad you liked 'em!

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  8. I made these and posted them on my blog with a few changes. My family and I all really enjoyed them! I'd love if you'd take a look at my post: http://piesandplots.net/vegan-gluten-free-breakfast-bars/

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    1. Hi Laura, Thanks for posting and sharing your version - they look great, and so does your site! So glad they were enjoyed. Cheers. :)

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Nice comments make me warm and fuzzy!