Friday, January 17, 2014

Your Thanksgiving dessert? -- how about apricot oatmeal bars?

An old handwritten recipe for apricot oatmeal bars sits at the back of one of my oldest cookbooks, within easy reach just inside the back cover. No source is credited for it. It's a favorite because it is full of fruit, easy to make, and very sweet. Whatever its true origins, the recipe must be fairly well known because plenty of examples are out there in the ether-net, too.

Begin by preheating the oven to 350 F and buttering a square 8 x 8 x 2 baking dish. In a bowl, mix:

1 and 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 cups quick rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar. (My recipe calls for a full cup of sugar, but that makes the bars much too sweet.)

Cut into this flour mix 3/4 cup cold butter, in small chunks, until the mixture takes on a feeling of rich solidity and resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle about 3 cups of it into the prepared dish, and press to form an even layer. Bake about 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and spread the crust with 1 jar (12 ounces) apricot preserves. Sprinkle remaining flour-oat mixture on top and press down gently. Finish baking for 25-30 minutes.

Note: back in the days when I was's Chicago Baking Examiner, I felt constrained to add more information, as follows -- Oats give these cookie bars a nice jolt of nutrition that many sweet treats don't necessarily have. A low-fat version substitutes apple juice and canola oil for the whopping one and a half sticks of butter, and an even easier version calls for melted butter in the first place, plus the use of a larger pan which reduces baking time. There is something leisurely and satisfying, though, about the rhythmic work of cutting in cold butter to a dough and seeing and feeling it take on its proper consistency under your hands. The results are rich and delicious with your after-the-feast coffee, or even better, strong plain black tea.

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