October 10, 2009
Deluxe Chocolate-Covered Seed, Nut and Fruit Bars
Now, I know that the sub-zero temperatures are officially telling me that it's fall and nearly winter, and that I should start to think more along the lines of heavy cakes, creamy fillings, and custard tarts, but you know, I think I may well have been converted to a healthier alternative (for now...), as long as it's smothered in dark chocolate of course! I put this recipe together earlier in the week and the chocolatey bars lasted beautifully for 4 days, which may not seem that long, but it was a good stint. In that time we enjoyed them with friends over late-night tea, brought them to a neighbour's house to have with coffee, and happily munched on them while working from home to provide some much-needed brain fuel. Now they're gone and I can't wait to make some more.
These bars are actually incredibly healthy. They contain Chia seeds (a good substitute would be hemp seeds) which are an excellent source of essential Omega oils. There's also pumpkin seeds and nuts for more protein and lovely dried fruit. You could have a lot of fun with this recipe, substituting almost any nut for the cashews - I'd recommend unsalted (or simply rinsed of their salt) pistachios or roasted hazelnuts, and if you'd like the bars to taste even richer, then try pecans. I used dried apricots and home-dried Italian prune plums (also known as Agen prunes/plums in France and the UK) but there's no reason you couldn't use a mix of any dried fruit you have on hand- either way it's worth experimenting.
Deluxe Chocolate-Covered Seed/Nut/Fruit bars:
With some butter grease the bottom and sides of a jelly-roll pan (about 16"x12"). Then line the pan with parchment paper. (The butter makes the parchment paper stay in place.) (if you don't mind a little sticking then you can skip the parchment paper)
For the Seed, Nut and Fruit Bars:
200g 70% dark chocolate (or omit the chocolate topping if you're in a rush, and just add 50g chocolate chips or baking chocolate chips in with the pumpkin seeds at the end- it won't be quite as luxurious but at least you still get the chocolate)
1 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup dried prune plums or raisins (fully dried but you could also use prunes- just be careful to add them towards the end of chopping so they don't get too mushy, or chop by hand)
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted cashews
1/3cup pumpkin seeds
2 cups porridge oats
1/4 cup chia seeds (optional) (also could use hemp seeds for a nuttier flavour)
2 eggs plus 1 egg white
1/3 cup maple syrup or honey
1/4 cup cane sugar
In a food processor chop the apricots, rice flour and dried plums until in roughly 1cm pieces. Add to large bowl, then chop the cashews- either in the processor or by smashing them with the side of a chef's knife into slightly smaller pieces. Add to bowl.
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.
Add the oats, pumpkin and chia seeds if using (if using chocolate chips add them now). Stir until well combined.
Whisk together the eggs and egg white with the syrup then pour over the main ingredients. Sprinkle the sugar over the top and mix very well until the egg mixture has thoroughly coated the ingredients.
Pour the mixture into the buttered pan and spread out more or less evenly. Get a piece of plastic wrap/cling film large enough to cover the tray and press down onto the mixture. Using your rolling pin, roll over the top like a steam roller, and down the sides until there are no gaps and the mixture is well-compacted.
Bake for 12-13 minutes then remove from the oven and place the pan on a cooling rack.
For the Chocolate Topping:
Turn down the heat to 200°F and in a heat-proof bowl break the dark chocolate into same-size pieces and place in the oven until melted- this doesn't take long if using a stainless steel bowl. Using a spatula give the chocolate a good stir, then pour on top of the 'granola', and spread evenly. Allow the bars to cool completely, then cut into many enjoyable slices.
Tip: When cutting slices, if you dip your knife into a tall glass full of hot water, and then wipe it with a paper towel, this will minimize cracking in the chocolate and you'll get nicely shaped bars.