Some days are just horrible and stressful, and the only way to dull the edges is with chocolate. One of our litter is rather ill and dehydrated, so it’s rather scary to be in charge of a bunch of small lives and watch them like a hawk. These oat bars were something I made over the weekend as a little celebration for a friend coming over today, so at least in that sense they serve a dual function – easy freezer treats that were prepared beforehand, and soul-uplifting munchies that are a bit more dignified than eating a whole jar of PB.
These bars are very filling whilst being tasty: oat-y crust with a sweet spread and then that chocolate kick in the pants that makes life something gladdening once more. I’m tempted to tart these up and use them as breakfast bars, because they really are super satisfying, unlike most bars which force you to eat a tray. Not that such things matter if you own a few good stretchy pants 🙂
ETA: These bars got the official Man-thing seal of approval. The word “excellent” was used, which is very liberal of him 😉As you might be able to tell from the ingredient list below, I’ve been on a bit of a baked pretzel kick lately, what with the pretzel pesto and gingerbread pumpkin pretzel protein bars, for example. I must admit I get a little giddy at the thought of using an “ingredient” that already has salt in it, so I don’t have to stress about adding any of my own (which is usually nil anyway). I’m discovering that a pinch of salt actually works wonders in sweet goods (which is something everyone has known about for time immemorial, it seems), and that combined with the blissful crunch makes it a pretty versatile addition to any edible project.
Ingredients (makes two loaf pans worth – halve if you don’t want that many…but chances are you’ll thank yourself AKA 16 squares):
- 1 cup baked pretzels (whole, not crushed)
- 1.5 cups oats (OR use enough pretzels to make up 1/2 cup of ground pretzel flour)
- 2 heaped TBSP vegan margarine, cut
- 2 TBSP applesauce
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1 TBSP vanilla essence
- Cinnamon to taste
- 1 cup dates, soaked for 1 hour minimum
- 1/2 cup raisins, soaked for 1 hour minimum
- 2 TBSP no-added salt or sugar PB
- 1 TBSP caramel extract
- 1.5 cups dark chocolate baking discs/carob nuggets/homemade chocolate
- In a food processor, blend your pretzels until they are a fine flour, then transfer to a big mixing bowl. Add the oats to the processor and blend until they are a flour and add that and the rest of the ingredients for the base to the bowl, mixing well with a wooden spoon until it forms a rough, semi-crumbly dough. You can give it a few squashes with your hands.
- In 2 lined and sprayed loaf pans, split the dough evenly and smooth out the top.
- Place the dough in fridge for 20 minutes.
- Preheat 180C, then bake the base for 15 – 20 minutes, until it is golden brown, then let it cool for at least 15 minutes before placing anything on top.
- Meanwhile, blend the dates and raisins, mixed with some of the soaking water (just enough to get the dried fruit mushed down, not to turn it into a runny liquid).
- Once your fruits are broken down and relatively smooth, add the rest of the caramel ingredients and blend til smooth.
- Spread the caramel layer on top of your pretzel base, then freeze for 10 minutes.
- Melt your chocolate discs and pour that evenly over the top of both pans.
- Place in the fridge for 30 minutes before slicing. It’s best kept in the fridge for a creamier bar or the freezer for a firm bite!
These really are easy and nifty! I might use a pumpkin puree with less dates for the filling, add some flax powder in the base and some sliced bananas on top or so for a breakfast bar, but even as is it would make a great little snack to take to work to perk one up when the hours get heavy. Obviously these are straight out the freezer, but when they’re out the fridge they are just so gooey and decadent that it becomes a whole other sensation altogether. Happiness is 100% sensory in our household!
Our ill kitten is luckily a bit more sprightly than he was this morning, but it’s still a twitchy time. Fostering is such an amazing experience, because you get to do more than just pet cute kittens, but this is the first bunch that have made us worry and go grey – I guess when there’s 9 statistically there will be more scratched noses and what not. I don’t know how people have children, because I’m sure that’s just as much, if not more stress!
We’ve opened up the adoption pool for all the rest, and I cannot wait to meet the curious folks who would possibly want to adopt them. Each person thus far who has adopted through us has some special connection to cats, a real history or story about why they have them in their lives, so it’s really touching to see that cats aren’t just treated as pets but also family members.