Valentine’s Day is a week away. For me, this means pretty much one thing: seven days in which to use my heart-shaped cookie cutter in as many ways possible. So far, my treats of choice are these sweet cherry oat crumble bars, which I’m wrapping up and carrying around with me as I continue to ride a busy wave. They’re energizing, filling, and just the right amount of sweet.
I modeled the bars after these blueberry breakfast bars, an old recipe, but one that I remember loving for portable breakfasts when I was in the thick of my post-bacc. I made a couple of tweaks to the formula, and instead of using fruit preserves, I used a layer of chopped, frozen sweet Northwest cherries. I love what using whole fruit adds to the bars in terms of moisture and texture.
And I love the healthfulness that sweet cherries add to the recipe. Sweet cherries have so much to offer nutritionally: not only ample fiber, but also the anthocyanins that give the fruits their deep color and anti-inflammatory properties. They also contain ellagic acid, a powerful antioxidant, and they’re a natural source of melatonin, which might aid in healthful sleep cycles. All of that, plus a low glycemic index, which means that the fruits’ naturally occurring sugars may be released and absorbed steadily.
As for the recipe, it’s a wholesome counterpart to standard issue crumble bars. Instead of a buttery, shortbread base, they’ve got a base of rolled oats, whole grain flour, and maple syrup as sweetener. It’s dense and chewy, rather than crispy, which I personally love (not that I don’t love a regular crumble bar).
The topping is a mixture of rolled oats, brown sugar, a little extra flour, and sliced almonds, which give the bars just enough crunch and a slightly nutty flavor. Sweet cherries and almonds are a much loved pairing, and I’m one of those who really loves it, so I wanted to channel that in the recipe. Here it is.
Sweet Cherry Oat Crumble Bars
For the base:
- 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
- 1 1/2 cups oat light spelt, or whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup neutral vegetable oil such as grapeseed or refined avocado
- 1 cup applesauce
- 6 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
For the topping:
- 1/3 cup rolled oats
- 1/4 cup oat light spelt, or whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar or brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons coconut oil or butter
- 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen and thawed pitted dark sweet cherries, roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly oil an 8 or 9-inch square baking pan.
- To make the base, mix the oats, flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together the oil, applesauce, syrup, and non-dairy milk, then add it to the dry ingredients. Mix till well combined, the add the base batter to the square pan and spread it evenly.
- To make the topping, place the oats, flour, almonds, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Add the butter or oil and use your fingers to mix it together, until it's crumbly. Alternately, add the ingredients to a food processor and pulse till it's crumbly; if it's too dry in either case, add a tablespoon or two of water to achieve a crumbly texture.
- Spread the cherries over the base layer, then distribute the crumble topping over them. Transfer the baking pan to the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top and edges are golden brown. Allow it to cool for at least an hour before cutting into squares (or hearts!) and enjoying.
I’ve got another sweet treat on the blog menu for next week, and that one’ll be unambiguously dessert (i.e., richer and more decadent than this one). But if you’re looking for something festive to make that’s equal parts wholesome and whimsical, this recipe is a good pick. It’s been making me smile, and I hope it makes you smile, too.
I’ll be swinging back on Friday with a recipe from my friends’ Sonja and Alex’s lovely new cookbook. Till then, stay warm, and happy baking.
This post is sponsored by the Northwest Cherry Growers. All opinions are my own, and I love infusing my snacks with the goodness of sweet cherries! Thanks for your support.