A large part of my life happens outside these days, so I am grateful that Stockholm has thus far had a supremely mild autumn. It’s happening though, the temperatures are dropping, and the darkness comes disorientingly earlier and earlier each day. I had forgotten how quickly this happens here, but I had also forgotten the beautiful ways in which Swedes embrace the dark months. Candles and lamps are lit in every window, and there are flickering torches on the sidewalks in front of most businesses. This city is very beautiful in the dark. These oat bars are the kind of thing that are perfect on a dark and chilly night, or a dark and chilly afternoon, as it were, along side a mug of warm tea.
A good oat bar recipe is, in my opinion, sort of the little black dress of the cookie and bar world. You can make them as plain or as dressy as you want to, mix and match the fillings, and they won’t ever go out of style. This oat bar recipe is adapted from one of my favourite cookbooks which happens to come from one of my favourite restaurants. I’ve tinkered with it in a number of ways, as I tend to do, and the outcome is the oat bar I’ve been looking for. It’s just barely on this side of sweetness, so if you’re used to really sweet cookies and bars this may not be the recipe for you. But you know what you can taste when you sink your teeth into one of these? Oats. Walnuts. Apples. Real food.
When I pulled these from the oven and tried one warm straight from the pan I thought they maybe weren’t sweet enough, and they were really tough to remove from the pan in one piece. After they had cooled off though, and especially after a stint in the fridge, not only were they easier to get out of the pan but the sweetness I was looking for magically appeared. My hypothesis is that as the bars cool and some moisture evaporates the sugars condense and the bar ends up tasting sweeter. It should be noted that I’ve used this apple butter, which has no added sugar, as the filling. A sweetened preserve would obviously kick up the sweetness considerably, so do with that what you will. In any case, I hope you’ll give these a try and enjoy the oat-y comfort with a cup of tea and a good friend.
One year ago: Winter Market Soup
Oat Bars with Apple Butter recipe:
Adapted from Rebar
I have cut down both the butter and the sugar in the original recipe. I replaced some of the butter with apple butter, but if you’re using a different preserve for the filling and don’t have apple butter or apple sauce (or pumpkin puree) on hand you could increase the butter to the original amount of 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. I’ve made a few other changes, as well, and the result is a hearty oat bar that is a little more soft and cakey than crispy. Please make sure they are totally cool before you attempt to remove them from the pan.
3/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups apple butter, (or other preserve) divided
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups whole oats
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
Preheat your oven to 180 C / 350 F. Lightly grease a 9×11 inch baking pan. In large bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer combine butter, 1/4 cup apple butter, brown sugar, oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Mix well. Remove half of the mixture and set it aside. Add the egg to the half you still have in the bowl and blend it in well. Use your hands to press that half evenly into the baking pan (wet your hands with cold water to prevent the dough from sticking). Toss this bottom crust in the oven and bake for about 10 min, until the edges are starting to brown just ever so slightly.
Meanwhile, combine the other half of the oat mixture, which should resemble a crumble topping, with the chopped walnuts.
Remove the cooked bottom crust from the oven, and spread with remaining 1 3/4 cups of apple butter or other preserve. Sprinkle the oat-walnut crumble topping over the top evenly. Set the pan back into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, until the crumble topping is beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and cool well before slicing. Slice into squares, and enjoy.
Do ahead: these oat bars will last in an airtight container in the fridge for about a week, or you can stash them away in the freezer for much longer.
All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2011