Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Healthy Oatmeal Almond Bars with Fruit Filling

A lot of people are saying, "New Year's resolutions be damned!" but I am still trying hard to create healthier versions of my favorite foods and desserts.  And I think I did a good job with these oatmeal bars.

I remember my mom making some sort of oatmeal and fruit bars quite a lot when we were kids - I think it's a pretty popular concept - although most recipes would use more butter and sugar.  Mine has very little butter (4 tablespoons divided between 16 servings, which isn't bad at all), a little sugar (1/4 cup), and lots of good grains and nuts (whole rolled oats, whole wheat flour and finely crushed almonds).

For the filling, I used a jar of jam that I made over the holidays, a cranberry blueberry jam, but you can use any store-bought jam in any flavor you like.  Low-sugar jam would be great, too, because the jam is where the majority of the sugar in this recipe comes from.  When berries are in season, they would be amazing added to the filling - my suggestions would be peaches, apricots, strawberries or blueberries, or even dates and figs - paired with a complementary jam.  Of course, frozen and thawed fruit could be used as well.

These bars are full of flavor, pleasantly crumbly from the oats, and just sweet enough to feel like a dessert and satisfy your sweet tooth without making you feel completely guilty.  They can be eaten for breakfast, too!

Oatmeal Almond Bars with Fruit Filling
printable recipe

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup finely crushed raw almonds (or coarse almond flour)
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup jam
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) chopped fruit or berries

Preheat the oven to 350.  Line an 8 or 9-inch square baking dish with foil and spray the foil with non-stick spray.

In a bowl, combine the oats, almonds, flour, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Sprinkle the oat mixture with the almond extract.  Add the butter and egg yolks and use a pastry cutter to incorporate the butter and eggs into the oat mixture until it's coarse and crumbly.

Scoop half of the mixture into the baking dish and press firmly against the bottom. (You may think the mixture is too dry, but it will work.)  Spread the jam evenly over the crust (warm the jam slightly if it's difficult to spread).  Add the fruit or berries.  Sprinkle the remainder of the oat mixture over the fruit like a crumble topping.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool for 1 hour in the pan on a wire rack, then lift the foil out of the pan and cool completely before cutting into squares.

Yields 16 bars.