People eat with their eyes first, I tell my boyfriend, using this line every time something comes out of the oven that doesn't meet my definition of "cookbook cover." Presentation is everything.
Taste matters, too, he reminds me, digging a fork into whatever dessert I have dismissed. And he is right.
Since the coffee cake revelation of last year, my goal has been to soften my ideas of perfection. More recipes have been shared and fewer have been hidden from view. This approach hasn't been without its challenges, though. I still feel the uncertainty of whether something is exceptional enough to bring into your kitchen. Know your audience, I tell my students. How well do I know mine?
These blueberry oat bars were inspired by a strawberry bar of a similar nature from years past. I pulled them together on a cool Saturday morning, but when they came out of the oven, I hesitated. The jam had bled into the oats, dying them a dark shade of green; the oats had browned unevenly. The decision was made. Do you want a bite? I called to my boyfriend, rejecting the bars on looks alone. They are still warm.
As any food blogger can tell you, once the fork reaches the pan, the opportunity for photography has fallen away. I took a forkful. Two. Three. I cut myself a square and was mid-bite when my boyfriend reached the kitchen. I am pretty sure this is the best thing I have ever eaten, I said between mouthfuls. I need to photograph these.
I whisked the bars away before he could get a bite.
The taste easily makes up for whatever these bars may lack in looks. To create them, a layer of fruit preserves is sandwiched between an oatmeal crust. The texture is that of a chocolate chip cookie, hot and gooey from the oven (and it retains this texture for several days). The jam gives the bars a richness reminiscent of fudge—a little will go a long way when it comes to this dessert.
Since the fruit is the focus, use a high quality fruit preserve or jam (bonus if it has fruit pieces!). Homemade or store bought will work equally well so don't think or worry you are "cheating" if you take the easy way out.
Blueberry Oat Bars (gluten-free!) are simple to make and a joy to eat. An oatmeal crust—made from oats, coconut oil, and brown sugar—forms the base of the bars. A thick layer of fruit preserves are spread on top before baking and caramelizing in the oven. The bars are chewy on the edges, gooey in the middle, and very difficult to ignore.
Two Years Ago: Sunflower Seed Bread, Blackberry Fool, and Lime Curd Tart with Coconut Whipped Cream
Three Years Ago: Grapefruit Soda, Irene's Orange Rolls, S'mores Cupcakes, and Mai Tai
Four Years Ago: Thin Mint Brownies, Strawberry Pancakes, Roasted Pineapple, and Lemon Thins
Blueberry Oat Bars
Yields 16 servings
1/3 cup (70 grams) coconut oil, solid state
1/2 cup (100 grams) brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (90 grams) oat flour*/**
1 1/2 cups (135 grams) old fashioned oats**
1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (~300 grams) fruit preserves or jam (I used blueberry fruit preserves)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Lightly grease an 8x8-inch pan.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together coconut oil and brown sugar until uniform. Add the egg and vanilla, mixing until blended. Stir in the oat flour, oats, chia seeds, baking soda, and salt. Batter will be slightly sticky. Using greased hands, press 3/4 of the batter into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread preserves or jam evenly over the top. Crumble the remaining 1/4 of the batter evenly on top.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool slightly in pan before serving.
* To make oat flour, place old fashioned oats in a food processor and process until oats are a fine powder.
** To make gluten-free, use gluten-free rolled oats.