I started flipping though it immediately, flagging recipes with little notes that I knew I had to try straight away. While browsing, I was quite pleased to see the book offers both gram and volume measurements - even for liquid ingredients like water and cream! Score! I will be writing out the recipes from this book this way as well. I wish more authors would push hard to get their editors to include this, but I digress. The first recipe I chose to make were these Granola Bars with Chunky Jam for the Weekly Wednesday Treat Day.
To not have to worry about the correct season for the fruit or quality of what is in the market at the time, the glistening chunky jam (though one might consider this closer to a compote than jam) is actually derived from a trio dried fruit! In this case, they were dried apples, cranberries and tangy apricots, brought to a boil with a scoop of sugar, a couple cups of water and a pinch of salt. It won't need to cook much - as soon as the water boils, the pot is taken off the heat and left to cool down while the fruit plumps in the sweet syrup.
Before using, the fruit is scooped into a food processor and blitzed a few times - keep is chunky and loose, rather than going for a smooth consistency. You can make the jam ahead of time if you wish - keep it covered in the refrigerator (no more than 4 or 5 days), then let it hang out at room temperature while you start on the base.
Toasted walnuts, flour, hearty old-fashioned rolled oats (no instant or quick cooking please!), brown sugar, coconut, cinnamon and several pats of softened butter create not only the bottom of these bars, but the streusel-like craggly topping. Don't be alarmed after buzzing these ingredients together in the food processor to find that it is dry and won't hold together much. Transferred to a bowl, the floury mixture quickly transforms into a dough when you drizzle several tablespoons of sticky honey over the top and use one of the best tools available to mix it in - your hands!
Could you just do that in the processor? Perhaps, but you risk overworking and heating the mixture up - besides, it's fun to get a little messy in the kitchen! Two-thirds of this is pressed over the bottom of the baking pan - I found it a touch sticky, but it didn't take much effort to get it to a level base. If you have troubles, lay a piece of plastic wrap over the top and then press it in - the plastic will peel right off without lifting back any of the base. To give the bottom a head start, the pan is baked, naked, until the top is evenly golden.
A thick layer of the homemade jam concoction is spread over the top, followed by the rest of the base mixture, which was held in the refrigerator during the first bake. However, before sprinkling the chunky bits on top, a trilogy of add ins was stirred in for an intriguing crunchy finish - sunflower seeds, flax seeds and a few scoops of millet. In the oven for another bake, this one will take quite a while - up to an hour as you're looking for the bumpy top to be well golden. You can slice these into a dozen mammoth bakery-sized rectangles, but after we took the pictures, we decided to cut each in half for a more manageable daytime treat.
The author, Joanne, suggests that these taste best after a couple days of sitting around. We decided to test that theory by making these on Monday, but waiting to bring them into work on Wednesday morning. We sliced off a chunk to nibble on after it had cooled enough and were very pleased right off the bat. When we tried them late Tuesday afternoon for a pre-dinner snack, I could see what she meant - the fruity flavor in the jam was more prominent and the bars had an fascinating nutty wholesomeness, without being too "oat-y".
They were also just as moist, if not a touch more so, on day two than they were on day one - if kept in an airtight container, the bars should stay fresh, kept at room temperature, for about a week!
Granola Bars with Chunky Jam