During a recent conversation, I was surprised to learn that not everyone knows what Blondies are… I mean, Clafoutis, Lamington, Coyotas, or Mooncake I understand. But Blondies???… This led me to question if perhaps I know a little too much about desserts. But I digress… Naturally, I seized the opportunity to give (what I’m sure was) a riveting lecture on the topic of Blondies, and even baked up a tasty subject for them to “study” :-)
I’ve been meaning to make my own granola bars for a while, but some how they kept getting pushed to the side, to make way for cookies and cupcakes… You know how it is :-)… Recently, I made a big batch of Cranberry-Pumpkin Seed Granola and knew it would make fantastic bars. That convinced me, it was time to let granola bars take centre stage.
Happy Birthday Canada!
This weekend (July 1st, to be precise), communities across our nation will be celebrating Canada Day. There will be parades, and festivals, and fireworks galore! Not to mention all the smaller, private parties put on by families and neighbours… I’ve always considered it the kick off to summer, myself.
Flipping through Pinterest, I noticed several pictures of Oreo Rice Crispy Squares. They looked so delicious I couldn’t get them out of my head. I found myself daydreaming about not only Oreo, but other variations of rice crispy treats… The idea of maple came to me while I was passing the cookie isle in the grocery store. I spotted Mr. Christie’s Maple Leaf Cookies and a light bulb came on!
Extra thick, rice crispy squares, containing maple syrup and maple cream cookies! I don’t know if it’s a Canadian thing, but I found this combination to be pure heaven! The cookies added not only a yummy flavour, but also textural interest. If you’re a fan of the original, marshmallow treats, then I’m sure you’ll love this dressed up version too.
I hope that maple cream sandwich cookies are not available only in Canada. But if you can’t find any (watch out for dairy, some brands contain it), then substitute a golden vanilla cream cookie, such as Country Choice (though obviously the final flavour will be a little different).
Please keep in mind… Don’t substitute “pancake” or “table” syrup for the real stuff… Don’t exclude the maple extract, it’s important for obtaining a good maple flavour without watering down the marshmallow concoction with syrup… Do be patient when melting the marshmallows. As tempting as it might be to turn up the heat and melt them quicker, this tends to make the marshmallows harden, making it not only more difficult to stir the cereal into the mixture, but results in an overall harder texture when the squares have cooled… And finally, I know this makes a big batch. If you want a little less temptation, half the ingredients and press into an 8 x 8 inch pan instead.
Maple Rice Crispy Squares
8 cups Crisp Rice Cereal
30 Maple Cream Cookies, broken into various sizes (I used Mr. Christie’s Maple Leaf)
6 tbsp Margarine
20 oz Marshmallows (I used 2 bags of Dandies)
2 tbsp Pure Maple Syrup
2 tsp Maple Extract
Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan. Set aside.
Toss the cereal and cookie bit together until combined. Set aside.
Melt the margarine over low heat. Add the marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Stir in the syrup and extract. Remove from heat.
Add the cereal mixture and stir until well coated.
Press mixture, firmly and evenly into pan… I like to cover the surface with plastic wrap and use a smaller baking pan to press the mixture down.
Decorate surface with sprinkles, if using.
Allow to cool completely before cutting.
I’m often at a loss when it comes to dealing with the scraps in my pantry and refrigerator. Handfuls of ingredients, left over from long completed baking projects. Never enough to repeat the recipe, always too much to just throw away… These odds and ends usually make their way into some sort of hodgepodge recipe, with results ranging anywhere from delicious to disastrous. Luck was on my side, this time.
For these bars, I used dried cherries and cherry jam, because those were the ingredients I was aiming to get rid of (along with the applesauce and whole wheat flour). Paired with the chocolate, I found the flavour reminiscent of a black forest cake… Don’t have cherry jam or dried cherries? Just use whatever jam and dried fruit that you have on hand, the flavour combinations are endless.
What’s your favorite way to use up the last bits of ingredients?
Chocolate-Cherry Oat Bars
1/2 cup Cherry Jam
1/2 cup Applesauce (unsweetened)
1/2 cup Dried Cherries
2 tbsp Shredded Coconut (unsweetened)
1 cup Rolled Oats
3/4 cup Whole Wheat Flour
2/3 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Cocoa Powder
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 cup Margarine
1/3 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
2 tbsp Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (optional, for top)
Preheat oven to 35o°F.
Stir together the jam and applesauce until thoroughly combined. Stir in dried cherries and coconut. Set aside.
Combine the rolled oats, flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and baking soda. Using a pastry blended or fork tines, cut in margarine until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside 1/2 cup of the oat mixture.
Stir 1/3 cup chocolate chips into the remaining oat mixture and press into the bottom of an (ungreased) 8×8-inch baking pan. Spread with the jam mixture and sprinkle evenly with the reserved oat mixture. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips over the top, if using.
Bake for 30 – 35 minutes.
Allow to cool in pan before cutting into bars.
Makes 12 – 16 bars (depending on how I cut them) .