The other day I did something I haven’t done in quite a while: in a moment of desperation and due to lack of other snacks, I purchased an overpriced Nutrigrain Bar to hold off my hunger pangs until my next meal. My options were few, and for some reason something soft with sweet chewiness in it sounded perfect.
Next thing that happened: me inhaling and being like “omg yum why did I forget about these for like 8 years?” followed by obsessive craving for something so sweet and soft for days.
Fast forward a week, post-crazy travels, and I am in my kitchen, bored, craving these again, and without much in my pantry. Determined, I bake a soft, oatmeal filled breakfast bake of sorts. To satisfy my desire for the something sweet’n’gooey, I puréed some dates’n’raisins together to make a paste. Jam would also work for these, I simply had none and had roughly a cup of dates and a fresh bag of raisins in the pantry.
Speaking of raisins, I’m into them lately. When I was in New York this week, they popped up in a lot of unexpected meals, like the protein-packed kale salad from Peacefood, on tartines from LPQ, and in savory pasta dishes. I really enjoyed them. Raisins deserve more street cred. plan to give them some soon in future posts.
Back to the bars, I decided that the date-raisin layer was sort of ugly and should be covered. I made the bottom layer of these a bit too thick to add a top layer, so I quickly made a crumb topping, which ended up adding a nice textural contrast to the muffin-like bottom layer and ooey gooey date layer. If you know me, you know I’m really into textural contrasts (which is why if I ever get regular ice cream or froyo I simply must add chocolate and/or nuts as toppings #princessproblems), so this ended up delighting my mouth with an assortment of mouthfeels.
Besides delicious and soft, these are cinnamony, slightly sweet, and perfect for breakfast or snacks. I dig them. I hope you do too.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 20-25 minutes.
Ingredients – Soft Baked Layer:
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 1 cup applesauce (or 2 mashed ripe bananas)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup dates (soaked for 10 minutes in water, then drained)
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup almond butter, coconut oil, or non-dairy butter at room temperature
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place dates in a small bowl of water and allow to soften, about 10 minutes.
2.Meanwhile, place rolled oats into a food processor or blender and grind into a powder. This is your oat flour. I like mine less-fine than flour, because I enjoy the oaty texture. Makes it muffin-y. Return to your soaking dates and drain them. Place these aside.
3. Place the oat flour in a bowl with whole wheat flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and brown sugar. Whisk until combined. Then add applesauce, almond milk, and vanilla and stir until combined.
4. In a food processor, grind softened dates and raisins until a thick paste. It will be a bit thicker than jelly.
5. In a small bowl, combine rolled oats, sugar, and almond butter/coconut oil/non-dairy butter. Using your handles or the back of a fork, mix well and try to evenly disperse fat and sugar throughout the oats. Honestly this works best with your hands. Form crumbs between your thumb and index and middle fingers.
6. Using a spatula, spread the soft baked layer batter into a well-oiled 9×9 or 8×10 baking pan. Spoon the date-raisin spread in small, tablespoon sized globes all over soft baked layer. Then use a spatula or the back of a knife to spread the date-raisin layer evenly over the soft baked layer. Finally, sprinkle crumb layer all over the date-raisin layer.
7. Place pan in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until fragrant and a toothpick or fork stuck into the middle of the bar comes out cleanly upon removal.
8. Take the bars out of the oven, allow to cool, and enjoy for breakfast every day this week. To preserve freshness, cut into individual bars and store in an airtight container.