Monday, May 06, 2013

oatmeal bars with raisins and nuts

Awhile back I made an attempt at pecan-maple syrup oatmeal bars, using a recipe from the Quaker website and was quite disappointed by the result. There was something very particular I'd had in mind and this bar didn't cut it. It was kind of crumbly and didn't hold much texture, there wasn't enough moisture. It needed more contrast than just pecan bits sprinkled atop the mess. The mess of maple syrup made the whole recipe far sweeter than I wanted. Of course that disappointment just made it clear that I needed to find my own recipe. An oat bar that straddles the space between cookie and acceptable breakfast food. An answer to my attempt to fix breakfast (or, you know, eat it), With some extra flavours in, and a more substantial mouth feel.

For textural contrast I knew I wanted raisins and nuts. Walnuts happen to be cheap here, so I used those, but pecans or hazelnuts would be delicious here. I considered tossing in some chocolate or butterscotch chips (I have good luck with butterscotch flavours), and even some coconut flakes - but that's a more muddled and dessert style bar than I'm going for with this. More is better with the mixings here, I found. The crunch of the nuts is one of the heaviest textures in this bar, and a heavy hand with the raisins helps balance that.

I also knew I needed more liquid. The last bars were hard in that awful, brittle kind of way that I just didn't want to see again. A second egg seemed called for, and liquid sweetening was definitely called for. I didn't want anything too sweet - the last bars had a pretty high sugar ratio and it was definitely overdone. These? By no means are they sweet, but they have that just enough touch that makes them perfect. I suppose you could cut the white sugar if you're super sugar sensitive, but these worked for me perfectly.

This is the first recipe I have ever made completely on my own. Oh, I pulled from old recipes to figure out when they were done and to get ideas for ratios of baking powder and such, but this was what my head came up with when I thought "oatmeal raisin bars".

Oatmeal Bars with Raisins and Nuts

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 cups oats (old fashioned or quick, your preference)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1/4 cup honey, plus more for drizzling (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or other nuts (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375* F. Grease 9x13 baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flour, oats, baking powder, salt, white and brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon) until fairly evenly distributed. You'll have some clumpy bits because you've got oats in there, but stir until you don't have any clumps of  flour or brown sugar there.
  3. In a smaller bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add melted butter and honey, stir.
  4. Pour the egg mixture over the dry ingredients, mix until incorporated. A folding technique works well here if you're doing it by hand, or else your mixer can easily handle this. The dough that comes together is just barely wet and will want to pull together into a large ball.
  5. Add the raisins and nuts to the dough and mix.
  6. Transfer to the baking dish and smooth down the batter to an even layer.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  8. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, slice and serve.

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