Monday, February 18, 2013

Soft Baked Breakfast Bars


I really enjoy my job.

That probably has to do with the fact that I bake cake and then eat cake, and then bake more cake...and then eat more cake all day. ALL day. Then I go back to my desk....apply some science to my recipe and then go back into the kitchen and continue to bake (and EAT) cake.

So you'd probably think that by the time I get home, the last thing I want to think about is dessert. I probably wouldn't crave cakes, cookies, chocolate, brownies....

Buuuut, that's exactly not what happens. I always crave something sweet and of the baked variety. It's practically built into my system and there's really no way to get around it unless one day I find my off switch.

For the purpose of balance, I try to keep something other than chocolate chip cookies laying around so that when I'm tempted, I can at least have some fruit and fiber mixed in with my temptation. Don't be mistaken, though...there is still chocolate in here - it's just diluted.



These Soft Baked Breakfast Bars are a total win. Win win win! They're full of fruit, fiber, flavour and they keep me full so that I don't feel the urge to eat 6 of them (like I do with chocolate chip cookies... Sigh...).

For fruit I've added dried apricots and dried goji berries. Goji berries taste like sour cherries flirting with cranberries, but with quite a dry texture. I had a bag of them around and thought this would be a great way to use them. If you don't have any, dried cranberries would be a great substitute. No worries.

For chocolate I've added... chocolate. Dark chocolate. Go with 60% or higher to get a big cocoa punch. My digits of choice are 70%. It contrasts beautifully against the tart berries and meshes so nicely with oats and almonds.


This recipe is designed more like an oatmeal cookie and less like your typical granola bar. They begin with some light creaming of butter and brown sugar and also include an egg. This helps to lighten the mix and create an over-all soft-baked texture. These are not crunchy or sticky, but they're soft and chewy. Remember those fruit-filled bars? Ah yes! "Nutrigrain Bars", right? Those were soft. Do they still make those?

I rarely talk hard core nutrition on this blog because let's face it, there is enough butter, sugar and chocolate to put Santa Clause into a sugar coma. But there are some things that require explaining.

You've probably heard all about GI by now right? Not in the context of 'that kid is trying to shove a GI-JOE up his nose', but in the context of low GI foods. What does this mean? GI stands for Glycemic Index and it is a value that describes the rate of absorption of sugar into the blood stream after you eat certain foods. Pure sugar (glucose) has a GI of 100.

High GI foods generally contain carbohydrates that break down rapidly when you're digesting and release glucose quickly into the bloodstream. Alternatively, low GI foods contain carbohydrates that break down more slowly and release glucose into your bloodstream steadily to give you a more gradual supply of energyThese include high fiber foods, particularly those high in soluble fiber, which increases the viscosity of the contents of your stomach to slow things down a bit and postpone sneaky mid-morning or midnight cravings. Oats are an excellent low GI food because they are high in soluble fiber called beta-glucan - that's what is responsible for the goopy texture of oatmeal.

Perhaps now you'll be more inclined to add oats to your breakfast routine or your baking. Whether you do this because of health reasons or because they just taste bloody good, well... that's your business!

xo

Soft Baked Breakfast Bars
Makes about 12 bars

1 ½ cups quick oats
½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
½ cup chopped almonds
½ cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup dark chocolate chips
¼ cup dried goji berries
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Line a 9x9-inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together oats, coconut, chopped almonds, dried apricots, goji berries and chocolate chips; set aside.

In a separate medium bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until smooth, a bit fluffy and lightened in colour. Add the egg and vanilla extract and stir until smooth. Add flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt and stir it in until just combined. Then, add the oat mixture and fold it in until evenly incorporated.

Turn the mixture out into your prepared baking pan and press it in firmly. Use the spatula to smooth the surface by running it back and forth. Bake until the top is lightly golden and the edges are lightly brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool them completely on a wire rack, then cut into bars using a sharp knife. They will keep for up to a week stored in an airtight container at room temperature.


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