Wednesday, May 23, 2012
I met Sherri when Cal was two weeks old. We were participating in one of Seattle Central Community College’s Parent Child classes. Her daughter is a few months older than Cal; she would roll, then scoot, then crawl, as she got older and more capable, to the center of our circle as we sat on the floor holding our babies, and entertain us as we discussed the topic of the day. If it hadn’t been for her daughter’s gregarious nature, I might never have noticed and gotten to know Sherri, especially since I was there with my second born child, and was not as free to get together before or after class as some did. But lucky for me, we became acquainted, and realized we lived within walking distance of each other. We’ve remained friends to this day.
Sherri is a great baker. In the past I’ve been the lucky recipient of wedges of cake, tarts, brownies, cookies… whatever just came out of her oven. Now we live at opposite ends of the city, so we get together at restaurants instead of walking to each other’s houses, and try other people’s food. For my last birthday, she gave me a book called Fat Witch Brownies. Cal doesn’t like chocolate, so I don’t make many brownies, but there are a few good chocolate-free bar recipes in this book. The cherry oatmeal bars are delicious; similar to an oatmeal cookie. Make no mistake – they are not granola bars. The quantity of butter puts them squarely in the camp of dessert. The beauty of this recipe is the ease with which it comes together – no scooping and rolling, no removing individual cookies from their sheets. You mix together all eight ingredients, press them into the pan, bake, then cut them out.
Here, as in any baked good, I recommend using good quality butter, as the flavor really shines through. I bake with Kerrygold.
The original recipe calls for one packed cup of dried cherries; I’ve reduced it by half, as none of us liked the bars with that much fruit. Use whatever kind of dried fruit you like. You can stir in ½ cup chopped nuts if you like.
Cherry Oatmeal Bars
Slightly adapted from Fat Witch Brownies by Patricia Helding
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups quick cooking oats
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup dried cherries
Grease an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with butter. Dust with flour and tap out the excess, or line the pan with a piece of parchment paper and let the excess hang over the sides, for easy removal after baking. Preheat the oven to 350F.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Remove it from the heat and let it cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon with a wooden spoon, flattening any lumps. Then pour in the melted butter mixture and blend until well incorporated. Stir in the cherries.
Spread the dough into the prepared pan, using your hands to pat it down.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the edges are starting to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 1 hour, then cut into squares.
Yield: 16 bars