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Archive for the ‘Bars’ Category

I’ve been meaning to share this recipe for a long time but I just couldn’t get it right. Now that I have and I can hardly wait to publish this post. The inspiration for these skillet chocolate chip bars came by way of Heidi Swanson’s blog, 101 Cookbooks (one of my absolute favorites) in which she interpreted a recipe from the cookbook Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce. For my version, I’ve added in some oats and reduced the amount of sugar by about a quarter. The result is a scrumptious bar with toothsome texture that delivers just the right amount of sweetness.   Prep time takes just about five minutes and once you’ve placed your dough in a cast iron skillet – please tell me you have one, they are essential in any kitchen! – your efforts will be rewarded in a moist bar that is ready to take out of the oven in just forty-five minutes.

Oatmeal Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Skillet Bars

Truly one of the fastest, easiest, and satistying bar recipes around. And they’re cooked in a skillet to boot! Perfect sliced into wedges and topped with a dollop of ice cream or cut into squares and packed in a lunchbox. They’re also nifty wrapped up and tucked away a pocket to take on a snowshoe.  Dress ‘em up or dress ‘em down. They’re delicious both ways, moist and whole grain. What’s not to love? Ok, they’re probably not low calorie.

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup quick oats

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

8 ounces/ 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

3/4 cup light brown sugar

3/4 cup white sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips  (about 8 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the middle. Lightly butter a 10 or 11-inch OVENPROOF skillet that is at least 2 inches deep (mine is a little over 3 inches deep). This will prevent your bars from overflowing the sides.

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Place the  butter and sugars into the bowl of a stand mixer and, using the paddle attachment, mix until they are just blended. Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is combined . Add the vanilla. Now pour the flour mixture into the bowl and blend on low speed until the mixture is just combined. Do not overwork the dough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Slowly add in 1 1/4 cups of the chocolate chips (making sure to reserve about 1/4 of a cup) until they are incorporated into the mixture. Turn the batter out of the bowl into the prepared skillet, pressing it into place. Now sprinkle the 1/4 cup reserved chocolate chips evenly over the top of the dough and lightly press them into the dough. The purpose it to make the top of your bars look yummy and chocolate-y!

Bake the bars for 35-45 minutes (mine are usually ready after 35 minutes but I have a convection oven) until they are golden brown on top and the center has set. Let the bars cool for at least 20 to 30 minutes before slicing – otherwise they will be too gooey in the middle. These bars are even better the second day.

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Nearly everyday our dog Pompy and I take a liesurely stroll along the dirt roads and cornfields in our neighborhood. It’s a nice ritual. Being a Border Collie, Pompy thrives on this much-needed exercise and loves being able to herd the the cows that graze in one of the nearby pastures. He runs along the electric fence fiercely hopping and barking at these big, black creatures that most certaininly are not sheep but will do in a pinch. They just look at him calmly and cooly, chewing their cud and probably wondering what this forty pound dog thinks he possibly could have on their half-ton girth.

I on the other hand am not much into herding but I like the zen of  walking and the familiarity of our route.  I enjoy watching how the blue of the sky changes from day to day, seeing the tracks animals leave behind, and observing the varying rocky, muddy shoreline of the dam-controlled Ompompanoosuc River. It is deeply calming to walk this same route because I always notice something different.

Yesterday I  marvelled at pumpkins dotting the landscape – some big enough to win constests, some small enough to carry on a bike – and had fun kicking the crisp leaves out of my way as I strolled. Something about that whooshing, rustling sound reminds me of being a kid all puffed up in a sweater and zipped into a windbreaker heading home after school for a cup of tea. So as it inevitably will, my mind moved to food. I started imagining what I could eat and drink when I got home from this walk. Yes, a cup of tea would be perfect. But what else? Maybe it was the autumn leaves that made me think of the glass jars of crisp oats and crunchy nuts in the pantry and of whipping them into a tray of granola bars. Whatever it was, I picked up the pace and Pompy and I headed home, me eager  for a nutty treat, him just always hungry for more.

Crunchy Homemade Granola Bars with Cranberries and Nuts

These granola bars taste absolutely fabulous (especially after a nice autumn walk) and are as easy to prepare as the recipe looks. All you need to do is gather your oats, nuts, coconut, and dried fruit, measure them, stir in a can of warmed condensed milk and bake for an hour. That’s it, really. No surprises – except how delicious they are and how quickly they disappear. My kids love them in their lunchboxes and they travel very well. The original recipe given to me by my friend Donna (as always, thank you Donna!) called for peanuts, but I prefer them without and instead rely on other mixed seeds.

Ingredients

1 396 gram can sweetened condensed milk

250 grams or 3 1/2 cups 1-minute oats (rolled oats can be used but the bars will be drier and may not cut as easily)

75 grams or  1 1/4 cups of shredded coconut

100 grams or 1 cup of sweetened, dried cranberries

250 grams or 2 1/3 cups of mixed seeds (pepitas or pumpkin seeds, unsalted sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and sliced almonds)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to  130 celcius or 275 degrees farenheit. Oil a 10 x 15 inch baking sheet.

Warm the condensed milk in a small pan. Meanwhile, mix together all of the other ingredients in a medium sized bowl and add the warmed condensed milk using a wooden spoon or spatula until well stirred.

Spread the mixture in the prepared pan using your fingers or an oiled spoon or spatula.

Bake for one hour or until lightly browned, remove, let cool for 15 minutes and cut into bars. Let cool completely.

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