In my ongoing quest to spend less at the grocery store and provide my kids with yummy but healthier versions of the treats they like in their lunch bags, I made these.
Actually, I’ve made a few versions now, and this batch is my favorite so far.
Now, by healthier, I mostly mean…pronounceable. Yeah, there’s sugar in these. And butter. But nothing hydrogenated or manipulated in a lab. Okay, the sugar is refined. But it’s a bit by bit revision of our eating habits. Slow and steady, right?
I’ve made a few changes for this go ‘round, resulting in a slightly thinner bar with a higher proportion of jam. Who knows, next time around I might change it even further. The beauty is, you can play around quite a bit, changing the fruit element, or adding nuts or coconut or sunflower seeds or whatever you like to the basic mixture.
Here’s how easy it is.
First, center a rack in the oven, and preheat to 375 F.
In the bowl of your mixer, you combine the flour, brown sugar and salt, then slowly add the butter until the mixture is crumbly, then stir in the oats.
This time around I also added a cup of chopped pecans, and I mixed it just enough to combine everything, but not so much that it made a dough. I tossed those in when I stirred in the oats.
I dumped about 2/3 of the mixture into a 12” x 18” rimmed cookie sheet that I’d lined with parchment.
Then I gently spread the mixture out to cover the pan and pressed it down to form the bottom crust.
Next, and this is another of my changes, I baked this bottom crust for fifteen minutes just like this.
Then I emptied the contents of an 18 oz jar of strawberry jam onto the top of the warm crust.
The warmth of the crust helps melt the jam, making it easier to spread.
And, finally, I sprinkled some – not all – of the remaining crust mixture over the jam.
I could have used it all and made a sort of jam sandwich, but I didn’t want it any thicker. So I saved the last of the oat mixture in a jar (about a cup and a half or so) and put it in the freezer for some future creation.
I popped the pan back in the oven for another fifteen minutes and then let it cool for maybe half an hour before removing it from the pan to slice.
I’m very glad I used the parchment. The cooled, melted jam sort of welded the edges to the pan, so I had to run a sharp knife along the edge very carefully so as not to tear the bars. When all the unparchmented edges were loose, I slid the whole thing out onto a large cutting board and then started slicing.
You can, of course, cut these into whatever sizes and shapes you like. I cut crosswise strips about one and a half to two inches wide, and then cut those strips into thirds. They were roughly the size of most granola and cereal bars in the stores.
I let them finish cooling on a rack, and then froze half. I’ll probably make another big batch this weekend and freeze half again. Eventually I’ll have a nice variety from which to choose.
I’m pretty sure blueberry will be next. Or raspberry.
I might even make a batch with grape jelly, just to surprise the kids. I can’t stand grape flavored stuff – jelly, candy…ugh. Hmmm…maybe with some peanutbutter mixed into the crust?
I’m especially happy I included the pecans. You could, of course, use walnuts, almonds, hazlenuts…whatever you like.
Here’s my recipe…
Strawberry Pecan Oat Bars
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 sticks of very cold, unsalted butter, each stick cut into 8 pieces
4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups (or 1 18 oz jar is close enough) strawberry jam
What to do:
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Line a large (mine was 15” x 18”) rimmed cookie sheet with parchment and set aside. Leave some parchment hanging over one edge. This will be helpful later when you remove the whole thing from the pan.
Combine flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer and stir together to blend. With the mixer on medium low, and using the paddle attachment, gradually add the butter and continue to beat until the mixture is crumbly but not a full-fledged dough. Remove the paddle, pour in the oats and the chopped pecans, and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until thoroughly combined.
Press about 2/3 of this mixture into the parchment-lined sheet pan. Bake this layer for about fifteen minutes.
Spread the jam on top of the cooked layer, then top with all or most of the remaining oat mixture.
Bake another fifteen minutes, or until golden brown on top.
Allow to cool about ten or fifteen minutes, then run a knife around the edges of the pan. Tilt the pan and, pulling on the overhang of parchment, gently slide the whole bar out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Cut into serving-sized portions, depending on your definition of a serving.
Cool bars on a rack and store in an airtight container or freeze.