Jun 4, 2010

Raspberry Oat Bars

During our visit to Seattle, we didn't make it to all the places on our list that we wanted to eat. But one place we did get to try several times was Macrina Bakery. With three locations around town, Macrina is a Seattle favorite for brunch, lunch and baked treats. Everything we tried there hooked us from the first bite. If we lived in Seattle, we'd be regulars.

When we got home, I wanted to try some more of Macrina's treats, so I picked up their cookbook, Leslie Mackie's Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook. It includes a wide range of their recipes from breads and muffins to pastries, cakes, pies, cookies, and brunch items. The newest edition has an additional chapter on their most-requested recipes.

The recipe I wanted to try first is an easy one, they call them fruit and oat bars. You layer a sweet almond dough in the bottom of your baking pan and bake it. Then top with raspberry preserves in the center and an oat crumble sprinkled on top. They make for a beautiful dessert, snack or even an indulgent breakfast treat.

These will definitely satisfy your sweet tooth. You could probably make them with a little less sugar in the crumble topping if you want them a less sweet. I love that they are rustic and very comforting. The raspberries have a tartness that balances well with the almond dough. They would make a beautiful holiday treat too.

Note: I reduced the almond extract a bit. The first time out it was a little strong for my taste. (The original recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon. Make it as you like.) Don't be intimidated by having to make the almond dough separately. It's easy and it's worth it. It makes for a flavorful base.

Macrina's Raspberry Oat Bars

sweet almond dough:
1/4 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Toast the almonds on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until they start to turn golden. Let them cool completely.

Grind the almonds in a food processor (mini-processor works great here) until finely ground. I did this in pulses. Measure out 2 tablespoons of the ground almonds and place in a mixing bowl. If you have any left over, save it to sprinkle over your oatmeal.

To the almonds, add sugar and flour and stir together.

In another small bowl, stir melted butter and vanilla and almond extracts. Pour this into the bowl with the almond mixture and stir together until a crumbly dough is formed. You want the dough to stick together when you press it between your fingers.

If you want to do this step ahead, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you're ready to use it.

If you're ready to go now, get out your tart pan. The recipes calls for a 13x9x2 inch pan. I used two smaller tart pans because I wanted the fluted edge they provided. This made for a little thicker crust on the bottom, which I liked. It made the bars easier to handle when cut. Use what you have. To do it all in one pan, I will probably use my 9 1/2 inch square brownie pan next time.

Press the dough into the pan using your fingertips. At room temperature, it will spread out easily. Just be sure to press it firmly into the corners and about 3/4 inch up the sides. When the dough is evenly pressed into the pan, cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Remove the chilled crust from the fridge and line it with parchment paper. Fill the bottom with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for about 25 minutes until the edges start to turn golden brown. Remove the parchment and weights and put it back in the oven to bake for 3-5 more minutes until the bottom is no longer moist. Let cool.

This is a good time to make the oat crumble topping.

For crumble topping and bars:
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1 to 1 1/4 cups brown sugar (depending on how sweet you'd like it)
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 1/2 cups raspberry preserves

Cut the butter into 1/4-inch pieces. Place them in a food processor with the sugar, flour and oats. Pulse the processor for 2-3 seconds at a time until the mixture turns into a clumpy and crumbly dough. Set aside for a moment.

Spread the preserves evenly over the cooled almond dough.

Sprinkle the oat crumble over the top of the preserve layer.

Bake for about 30 minutes. To get a nice golden brown on top, I turned the broiler on for just a moment before removing these from the oven. Be sure to stay with them if you want to do this so you can pull them out at the right moment.

Let cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting into bars. You can cut these into squares or rectangles depending on your preference. I liked the way they looked in long strips. How many bars you get depends on how you cut them. But these are big on flavor, so small servings are fine.

Adapted from Leslie Mackie's Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook.

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