Saturday, March 12, 2011

Apricot Oat Walnut Bars

I saw Giada make this on Food Network the other day and was instantly smitten by the idea of this recipe.  It sounds a bit healthy doesn't it....? Hmmmm, really, not so much- lots of butter, sugar, but oh so yum!   I was so intrigued because I could see so much that I could do with this recipe with variations using things I have on hand.  I've written some other ideas below. Here is the original recipe if you want to consult it.

Something about jam, it seems to be everywhere at my house.  First off, I love to make jam and so do all my sisters, which usually results in some sort of crazy jam swap.  I also seem to be a magnet for jam from other people... so I won't admit to how many open jams are in the back of my fridge at any one time.  I saw this recipe as a way to make an easy bar cookie and get rid of some JAM!  I usually have a bunch of different dried fruit in the pantry- cherries, cranberries, plums, and my favorite, apricot. Think of all the combination possibilities folks!!!

These cookies seem like they would be great 'travelers" so you can easily pack them and take them anywhere without too many crumbling issues.  I'm pretty confident they will freeze well too, and I will give it a try and get back to you.  Why is it you think that baked goods are "safe" from you if you freeze them?  Hey, I know from experience that frozen cookies are awesome.... but truly, maybe it would be better to actually save them for unexpected guests or to please your co-workers in the middle of the week.

Makes about 4-5 dozen bars

Vegetable oil cooking spray

1 1/4 cups apricot jam or preserves
8 dried apricots, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1/3 cup)

1 3/4 cups flour
1 packed cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt 
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Top Crust:
HALF the bottom crust (above)
1/3 cup oatmeal
1/3 flour
1/4 cup turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw)

Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with vegetable oil cooking spray. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper or foil. Spray the parchment paper with vegetable oil cooking spray and set aside.

Filling: In a small bowl, mix together the jam and the apricots. Set aside.
Crust: In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Stir in the oats and walnuts.

Add the butter, egg and vanilla and stir until incorporated.
Using a fork or clean fingers, lightly press half of the crust mixture onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread the filling over the crust, but don't spread it too close to the end of the pan, or it will be impossible to remove it!  

With the remaining half of the crust mixture, add the flour and oats and mix well. Adding these will make it a bit more crumbly.  Cover the filling with the mixture and sprinkle the top with the Turbinado sugar to give it a nice crunch when it's done. Pat it down a bit so that all three layers are touching, but not too hard.

Bake until light golden, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool for 1 hour and then cut into bars.

What else would this work with?
  • Cherry jam and dried cherries, substituting sliced almonds for the walnuts, and almond extract for the vanilla.  I bet you could even use Strawberry jam with dried cherries and it would work, since Strawberry jam is way more available (and popular) than Cherry Jam!
  • Add flaked coconut for half of the walnuts and use a tropical kind of jam... something like Pineapple Jam with cut up dried Mangoes.... I am totally making this next!
  • Eat any variety of this dish HOT with ice cream or whip cream!
  • I think you could easily reduce the fat by substituting half the butter for applesauce. 
  • Apple Butter (Jam) with fresh finely chopped apples and more cinnamon might make an Apple Pie bar that was fantastic.
Have FUN and make it your own!

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