Here At Last: Fruity Oaty Bars

Sunni's picture

I’m as close to settled on the recipe as I’ll ever be; and if I wait for pictures, I’ll probably never post the recipe. Those who like the crunchy–style granola bars will probably like these ... and they’re easy and inexpensive to make, to boot.

The base recipe came from Scandinavian Feasts, which is a great book on the subject. I made it first, then started tweaking it to get to my fruity oaty bars; so it seems only fair to present both recipes here. The base recipe is light and crisp, and more flavorful than the few ingredients would suggest. The snolfs like these with milk, but they’re also great (both variations) with tea.



Scandinavian Oat Bars

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray an 11"x7" jelly roll pan with nonstick cooking spray.

1 C butter, melted and slightly cooled
3 1/2 C quick-cooking oats
1 C sugar
2 egg whites

In a large bowl, stir together the oats and butter. Stir in sugar, then egg whites; mix until well blended. Press the oat mixture into the prepared pan as evenly as possible.

Bake for 30–35 minutes, or until golden brown. Cut into squares while still warm, but do not remove from the baking pan until cold. Store in an airtight container to keep bars crisp.


Now, for my version. For some reason I was very focused on cranberry as the fruit, but others work well too. I’ve used blueberries and cherries, which everyone enjoyed. If using larger pieces of dried fruits, cut them into smaller pieces (I did this with the cherries). Of course, I didn’t measure the quantities precisely, so take my suggestions as a general guide and do what works for you. I find it hard to try to distribute the fruit evenly throughout the mixture, but since I adore these bars both ways I don’t care that much about it. One could easily add nuts, too; the recipe is extremely flexible.

The use of brown sugar cuts down on the sweetness some, and gives the bars some depth. My measures are very approximate there; I just pack some brown sugar into a 1-C measure, then fill it with granulated sugar. Sometimes I also add about 1/2 t. of some spice, usually cinnamon or nutmeg.


Fruity Oaty Bars

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray an 11"x7" jelly roll pan with nonstick cooking spray.

1 C butter, melted and slightly cooled
4 C quick-cooking oats
2/3 C brown sugar
1/3 C granulated sugar
dash salt
3 egg whites
1 C dried fruit of your choice (more or less, to your preference)

In a large bowl, stir together the oats and fruit. Stir in all remaining ingredients; mix until well blended. Press the oat mixture into the prepared pan as evenly as possible.

Bake for 30–35 minutes, or until golden brown. Cut into squares while still warm, but do not remove from the baking pan until cold. (If they’re left too long, especially in a humid environment, the bars will soften.) Store in an airtight container to keep bars crisp.

Why?

Sunni,

Jest curious, you unnerstan... Why do you use 'quick cooking' oats instead of the less messed with kind? I always prefer the 'whole rolled' much more for flavor texture and, to make a SWAG, less molested nutritional value.

- NonE (hungry just reading this stuff)

I usually do, too

It’s what the original recipe calls for. I hesitated to try it for some time, because my preference is for whole rolled oats and I wasn’t keen on buying another variety. (I have been rather snobbish against quick-cooking oats for many years.) But then, thinking about the recipe informed me as to the importance of quick-cooking oats: there isn’t a lot of moisture for the oats to absorb during baking; and the final result is supposed to be a crisp, light bar.

Whole rolled oats would require a lot more liquid, and that might mean that the final product wouldn't be as crisp. Also, it wouldn’t be nearly as light—rolled oats have a much meatier texture, which is great in many things but wouldn’t work for these bars. One could try it with whole rolled oats; I would be interested in knowing how such an experiment works.

You could process the oats

I use a mini food processor to lighten up whole rolled oats in recipes; it chops them up to however fine you want them, and I don't need to buy more than one type of oats.

More data on this recipe.

I have hit upon a conundrum, and while I’ve a way through in mind, I haven’t yet tested it—but I wanted any who might attempt this recipe to be aware of the situation. It is this: at the temperature and time indicated, most fruit (especially around the edges) in the bars will likely get a little caramelized. Some—the golden raisins I tried the other day, at my ballerina’s request—went beyond that and were just shy of burnt (barely still edible, in other words). Blueberries also seem particularly vulnerable.

I’ve been baking the fruity oaty bars for about 25 minutes, but that leaves the stuff in the middle of the pan more chewy, rather than crisp. The other day I made a pan for some friends who were visiting, and decided to bake them the full 30 minutes. The edge pieces were almost overdone, and the cranberries there were starting to caramelize (a first with this recipe), while the interior pieces were nicely crisp.

My proposed solution is to reduce the heat by 25°F, and bake them for about the same amount of time. I’ll be watching my first batch carefully to see if further tweaks are necessary.

More recipe refinements; and a new variation

Okay, I’ve made these several times, and have some additional suggestions:
Lowering the temperature helps tremendously in keeping the edges from getting overdone while the interior doesn’t get crisp enough.
Taking the time to ensure that the edges aren’t thinner than the middle area is also very important. I’ve taken to dropping the mixture around the periphery of the pan, and then working it with a spoonula toward the edges first. Then I spread the remainder into the middle. I don’t obsess over this, but being a little more attentive to this process has really made a difference.
Stirring the fruit bits in before adding the egg whites seems to help keep them from clumping together.

Now for the variation. My son adores banana chips, so we got some; and of course I had to experiment with them in this recipe. I also played with the sweeteners some, using about 1/3 C maple syrup because I thought it would be nice with the banana flavor. My first pan came out much too sweet, but my second try was spot on. I used 2/3 C brown sugar and 1/3 C maple syrup; I also added some nutmeg to the mixture but I don’t think it was enough to be discernable.

The extra liquid yielded more chewy bars, even when baked the full time (again, at the lower temperature). For those of you who prefer chewy bars, switching out the white sugar for honey, maple syrup, or some other liquid sweetener may be just the ticket. As we like our bars crisp, next time I make these, I’ll reduce the egg whites by one to compensate for the maple syrup.