Sunday, June 17, 2012

Maple Oat Bars

I feel like I've taken a bit of a sabbatical from my blog lately. I'm still in recovery from grad school, and something about having free time all of a sudden meant I needed to redefine how I spend free time. And when I bake and cook. In grad school, cooking was an acute thing (even though it was still something I loved). It was often about realizing it was Sunday night, and that I needed to cook something in bulk to have enough food to take with me for lunch at work and dinner in class. Or I'd get so stressed out that the only thing I could do was to bake a cake or produce dozens of cookies or create a recipe for donuts. It was almost always something I needed to do.

But now? Now I can cook when I want to. And what a lovely feeling that is.

Last week, I had a sudden hankering for maple. Happily, this hankering (and the time to act on it) happened to coincide with a marathon of Mad Men with one of my good friends Joanna. And so, a tray of maple oat bars kept us (and Don Draper) company. I remembered making something like this before, and so I found that old recipe, gave it a slight makeover, and voila! Delicious, moist, crumbly-but-not-falling-apart, wonderful, maple-y oat bars. The funny thing about these is that they taste much better once they've been chilled (even though they're nothing to scoff at right out of the oven), so I recommend making them ahead of time and keeping in the fridge until you're ready to serve them. But no matter what temperature, these bars are fantastic.

Maple Oat Bars
Makes one 9 x 13" pan

3/4 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1 cup gluten-free rolled oats
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice OR 1/2 tsp. more cinnamon
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. maple syrup
3 tsp. maple extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)
5 tbsp. non-dairy milk + additional tablespoonfuls as needed to moisten the batter
1/2 cup crushed toasted pecans
1/2 cup crushed roasted cashews

For the maple drizzle:
1 - 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp. maple extract
1 - 3 tsp. water (add only a tiny bit at a time until you've got the consistency you want)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease or spray a 9 x 13" glass or ceramic pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine all dry ingredients (except for the nuts) in a large bowl and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients, and pour into the dry ingredients all at once. Stir to combine; add additional tablespoonfuls of non-dairy milk as needed until the batter is moistened enough. (It should have the consistency of very thick muffin batter.)

Spread the batter evenly into the greased pan. Bake for 35 - 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. These are best when they are slightly underbaked, as the middle will be nice and gooey. If the edges are getting brown too quickly, you can make a little tin foil tent and put it over the top so it bakes more evenly. When a toothpick comes out clean, remove from oven and let cool.

In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar, maple extract, and just enough water to moisten the icing enough to be drizzled. When the oat bars are completely cooled, drizzle the icing over the entire pan.

These are best stored in the fridge, and in fact, taste much better once they've been chilled.

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