I’m still all about oat bars; sorry, I go through these phases . . .
Yesterday, just before running out the door to go to Alan Wong’s book signing at Barnes & Noble, I threw together some pineapple and macadamia nut oat bars, one of the variations I offered in the earlier post. Top 10 Reasons to Test All Recipes: Ideas that sound logical may not pan out quite as you envisioned.
(WONG WAY DIGRESSION: Alan, by the way, was his usual shy and charming self and his new book, “The Blue Tomato,” was the jumping-off point for a side-by-side tomato tasting (local vs. generic Mainland vs. tomatoes dress in his famous li hing vinaigrette); an introduction to the refractometer, which measures the sugar content in foods, an aid in judging the ripeness; and another — Coke alongside a Snickers bar — that illustrates how the tastes of one food can influence your perception of the taste of another.
Back to pineapple: The pineapple bars worked, don’t get me wrong, but they’re a bit sweet for my taste. Next time, I’ll use half dried pineapple and half dried apricots — the tart acids of the apricots should help balance the intense sweetness of the pineapple. (This goes to Alan’s second principle of good cooking: balance — acid with sugar, soft texture with coarse and so on.) Also, dried pineapple is immensely sticky; when I tried to grind the pineapple chunks in my mini-processor, they stuck under the blade and I had to break them up several times. I also had to pull the bits apart as I mixed them with the oatmeal. So take note.
This morning, wanting something a bit more sweet, I tried a plan oat-and-nut bar, with raisins as the only fruit and whole almonds. These lend themselves to additions; I spread a bit of Greek yogurt on the slices. Butter or jam would be nice, too, especially while they’re warm. Or you could zap them 30-45 seconds in the micro at 40 percent.
I made both the pineapple bars and the plainer ones in my new toy: a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with a built-in cutter. My cutting skills with bars are embarrassingly sloppy. This device (you can get them in a TV online special for about $20 plus shipping but I bought mine at Executive Chef because it’s a much more heavy gauge nostick pan and shipping costs would have negated savings — also, I couldn’t wait).
Ingredients: 2 cups rolled oats, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 scant teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 cup dried unsweetened coconut, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup whole almonds, 1 egg, 1/2 cup whey, apple juice, nonfat milk or water, 1/2 cup Splenda Brown Sugar blend. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Make a well. In a small bowl, whisk together egg, liquid and sugar. Pour into dry ingredients, mix until incorporated. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes (20-25 if you want them more browned and a bit more crisp).
This version borders on a much richer recipe called “baked oatmeal,” favored of the Pennsylvania Amish, who do enough physical labor to be able to indulge in a version rich in whole eggs, butter and milk and lightened with baking powder.
About whey: I make Greek yogurt by draining the whey from full-fat plain live-culture yogurt. The why is great for use in baking, protein-rich and nutritious.
PS: Alan’s three-point principles of great cooking: Seasoning (taste, be sure there’s enough salt, layer flavors). Balance (sweet to salty, tart, sour or bitter; contrasting textures). Execute (employ good technique, deliver on what your promised, in short: make it good).