My days writing weekly newspaper essays about food are gone. The habits are not. I still pore over recipes, conjuring scents and flavors; they are alive and tangible in my mind. Recently, I came across Chow.com, an internet outgrowth for devoted food aficionados.
The recipe that grabbed me, right out of the box, was for Cherry Power Bars. I have craved cherries lately. Not because they are packed with anti-oxidants, but because their flavor is bright and tart and sweet. Their yielding texture is a pleasure to chew.
Cherries it is.
I scanned the recipe for ingredients; I like to determine what ingredients I might not have on hand before I get going. I lacked just flax seed meal and the dried cherries. After reading through twelve to fifteen reviews, I found most people cut pack on the sugar. They also replaced the cherries with dried cranberries. I was certain that I wanted to add dark chocolate chips.
Having made my first batch of the Cherry Power Bar recipe, I can pass along a few tips.
First, it is worth finely chopping the cherries as recommended. Too large, the structural integrity of the bar is violated. In the same way, too large of a chocolate chip can become problematic. I teeter-tottered on the edge of using mini rather than standard-sized chips. I should have. When transferring to the baking pan, I successfully used a butter-flavored spray oil on the back of a spatula. It was easy to compress without undue stickiness. Finally, having a properly preheated oven is key. My high-end JennAir Range conked out on me and I was left improvising in a toaster oven.
I made fifteen neat little Power Bar logs. Twelve hours later, the ziplock bag holding the saran-wrapped bars now holds ten. They are highly satisfying to eat, but a little disappointing in texture; they crumble too easily. I put that down to the inconsistency in the ingredient size and the oven temperature. Having been particularly critical of the result, I can certify that they would be absolutely amazing broken up on vanilla ice cream. What I can say is that when my oven is repaired, it will be worth a second go-around. Newsflash: I went to photograph the bars,,,,only four remained in the bag!
Cherry Power Bar
Total: About 1 hr
Makes: 10 bars
INGREDIENTS 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for coating the pan 2 cups rolled oats (not instant) 1/2 cup raw sliced almonds 1/2 cup raw walnut halves, finely chopped 1/4 cup raw wheat germ 2 tablespoons unsweetened, untoasted, dried coconut flakes 2 tablespoons flax seed meal 1/4 cup honey 3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon fine salt 3/4 cup dried, pitted cherries (about 4 ounces), finely chopped
INSTRUCTIONS 1. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with butter; set aside.
2. Place oats, almonds, walnuts, wheat germ, coconut, and flax seed meal on a rimmed baking sheet, toss with your hands to combine, and spread in an even layer. Bake, stirring halfway through, until walnuts are light golden brown, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.
3. Place honey, brown sugar, measured butter, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat and stir until mixture is smooth and combined and brown sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and immediately add oat-nut mixture and cherries to the saucepan, stirring until combined. Transfer to the prepared baking pan, spreading the mixture evenly with a spoon.
4. When the mixture is cool enough to handle but is still warm, dip your hands in water to prevent sticking and press the mixture evenly and firmly into the pan. Bake until aromatic, about 10 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool completely.
5. Remove the granola slab from the pan. Cut it in half to form two rectangles, then cut each rectangle widthwise into 5 bars to form 10 bars total. Wrap each bar in plastic wrap. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 weeks; let frozen bars come to room temperature before eating.