Saturday, February 28, 2015
Spiced Cranberry-Oat Bars
It was a cold day in February. I had a hankering for Smitten Kitchen's Cranberry Crumb Bars with Mulling Spices, but I wanted them to be more wholesome and breakfast-y so that I could eat them at any time with at least a modicum of respectability. I increased the cranberry content and added oats, flax, walnuts, and a splash of Grand Marnier. The results made for a toothsome snack that delights the tongue and sticks to the ribs. Tender oat cookie dough encases a tart, fruity filling that adds color to the wintriest of days.
for a 9 x 13 baking pan
2 sticks cold butter
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups oats
a few healthy shakes of flax (about 1/2 cup)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon or ginger (depending on whether you want your bars sweet or snappish)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1/2 cup walnuts
zest from one orange
juice from half an orange
splash Grand Marnier (optional; if you don't use this, use the juice of the remaining orange half)
4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
Line your 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment paper and butter the parchment and the sides of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Filling first. Toast the walnuts in a pan until golden-brown and fragrant. Grind them or finely chop them in a food processor. Combine all the other filling ingredients, then add them to the food processor. Pulse until the cranberries are coarsely chopped. Put aside.
Now for the crumb. Combine the flour, oats, flax, sugar, salt, baking powder, and spices. Work in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse sand with deliciously fattening pebbles. I cut the butter into tablespoon-sized squares and crumble them with my fingers. Yes, the Tipsy Crumpet's fingers work their way into all her culinary creations. Sometimes, they even stay there, as in the unfortunate case of a bowl of pickles into which the tip of my index finger was hacked. . . and never found again. It was almost worth it! But no finger tips will make it into your final product, because now, all you need to do is crack the egg and massage it into the batter. Yes, it's a little awkward.
Now, pat half, or slightly more than half, of the batter into the pan. It will be a bit crumbly, but trust that it will coalesce into a shortbread-like crust during its incubation in the oven. Spoon the filling onto the batter and spread it so that it's even. Pat the rest of the batter on top.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Cool on a rack, then cut into bars.