Sunday, December 4, 2011

Oat-Date Bars

In my continuous search for alternatives to commercial granola bars, I decided to try out another recipe from Whole Foods, one of my favorite source for "healthy" cookies and the like. For both their taste and lack of artificial ingredients, Larabars are one of my favorite commercial granola bars, and they use dates as one of the primary binders. These simple bars also use dates to help bind the bars together, imparting structure and sweetness, though they get a little help from egg as well. Sweet, sticky dates are a splendid companion to nutty whole wheat flour and together with chewy oats and for a satisfying and quick to prepare, albeit tame, healthy snack.

As is my typical strategy, I started with the original recipe, but I immediately saw myriad possibilities for adding flavor and nutrition to this solid snack bar foundation (dried fruit, seeds, nuts, flax, coconut, honey, maple syrup, spices etc.) but this recipe's greatest attribute is its potential for adaptation and that's what makes it worth sharing. As I'm constantly telling other people (and doing myself), experiment! Too many people are fearful of making mistakes while cooking and baking, but sometimes in the culinary arts, just as in science, errors often create the most amazing results, and even if they don't, you've learned something for next time.

Oat-Date Bars
adapted from Whole Foods
makes 10 bars

2/3 cup chopped pitted dates, divided
1/2 cup water
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups quick-cooking oats(or old-fashioned oats for an especially chewy bar)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 375°F and grease an 8 x 8-inch baking pan. In a blender, combine 1/3 cup of the dates and water; blend until very smooth. Add egg and blend just until combined. In a medium bowl, combine oats, flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt and whisk until combined. Add date-and-water mixture and remaining 1/3 cup chopped dates; stir until moistened.

2. Scrape into prepared pan, level the top with a spatula, and bake until firm and lightly browned around the edges, about 17 minutes. Cool in the pan and cut into 10 bars. Bars keep in an airtight container for about a week. They can also be individually wrapped and frozen until ready to eat; allow about 2 hours for them to thaw.

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