After last week’s fried indulgence, I wanted to make something totally guilt-free that used up a bunch of fruit I had sitting in my fridge and freezer. I’m always on the lookout for homemade versions of the store bought snacks I love, so after reading this post about Fruit Bars I immediately headed down to the kitchen to make my own.
I am so glad to have found this recipe because I will never need to buy fruit bars at the grocery store ever again. These taste so much better than anything store bought and they are filled with natural ingredients.
My bars have a crust of ground up almonds and oats along with flour and just enough butter. It’s like a healthier version of shortbread, but it tastes just as good. I had lots of berries and some beautiful blood oranges so I made two different fruit fillings: cranberry-orange and blueberry-orange. The fruit is cooked with some juice, sugar and cornstarch until it thickens and then it’s poured on top of the crust. The fruit is topped with a streusal made with that shortbread-like crust and more oats. Then the bars are baked until the topping is nicely browned and crunchy.
Here’s the great thing about this recipe: it’s incredibly flexible. I made my crust with a mixture of almonds and oats, but you can use all nuts or all oats. It doesn’t have to be almonds, either, you can use any kind of nut you want. And possibilities for the fruit filling are basically endless: apples, strawberries, pears, peaches, cherries, etc. Combine your favorite fruits or add spices like cinnamon or ginger. I didn’t put nuts in my streusal topping, but if you love nuts, go for it!
Tip: make these in 9×5″ loaf pans for easy slicing. They hold together pretty well and would be easy to transport to eat at work or a hike or anything like that. Mine are wrapped individually and stored in the fridge so I can grab a bar to go with my morning coffee or as an afternoon snack. They’ve replaced the muffin as my new favorite snack. I love these things!
Also, I would be a bad Browncoat if I were to make fruit bars with oats and not call them “Fruity Oaty Bars”. If you have no idea what I’m talking about watch this:
Yep, that song will probably be stuck in your head all day now. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Now go rent the movie Serenity (it’s nothing like that video, I promise). You can thank me later. 🙂
Berry-Orange Fruity Oaty Bars
adapted from Eating Well
Breakfast, Snack, Dessert | Servings: 18 bars
Prep time: 30 min | Cook time: 45 min | Total time (counting cooling): 2 hour 45 min
- 1/2 cup chopped almonds, walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts, plus more for sprinkling on top if you want*
- 3/4 cup rolled oats, divided*
- 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (or run regular whole wheat flour through a sifter a couple of times)
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 large egg
- 2 tbsp. canola oil
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1/4 tsp. almond extract
*Note: These bars can be made with all nuts or all oats if you don’t want to combine them. You need 3/4 cup ground up oats/nuts/combo plus 1/4 chopped up oats/nuts/combo for the topping.
- 5 cups cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries or strawberries, fresh or frozen, divided
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 3/4 cup – 1 cup** sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 cup orange segments
- 1 1/2 tsp. grated orange zest
- 1 tsp. vanilla
**Note: If you’re using cranberries, I’d recommend you increase the sugar by 1/4 cup or so unless you like really tart things.
Note: Steps 2-4 can be done exclusively in your food processor, but I don’t have one and it annoys me when recipes only tell you how to do something in a food processor. Am I the only person in the world who doesn’t have one?
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F).
- Combine the nuts and oats in a blender or food processor and run until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and stir in both flours, sugar and salt.
- Add chunks of butter and use a pastry blender or you fingers to incorporate it into the flour mixture until crumbly.
- Whisk egg, oil, vanilla and almond extract in a small bowl. Pour into flour mixture and stir until it everything is combined. It will be crumbly.
- Transfer 1/2 cup of the mixture to a small bowl and stir in the remaining 1/4 cup rolled oats (or nuts or a combination of the two). Set aside for the topping.
- Line a 9×13″ or two 9×5″ pans with foil or parchment paper. Spray the lined pan with cooking spray. Spread the dough evenly in the pan and press firmly into the bottom to form a crust. Set aside.
Combine 3 cups berries, orange juice, sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture is very thick, 4 to 5 minutes. This could take up to 10 minutes if you started with frozen fruit.
- Stir in the remaining 2 cups of berries, oranges, orange zest and vanilla.
- Spread the fruit filling over the crust. Sprinkle the reserved topping over the filling.
- Bake the bars for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake until the crust and topping are lightly brown, 25 to 30 minutes.
- Let cool completely before cutting into bars, at least 1 1/2 hours. They were still quite gooey when cooled and I found they were easier to cut into after being chilled in the fridge for an additional hour or so.
Store in the fridge in a covered container or wrap individually in plastic wrap or wax paper for easy transportation.
Blueberry-Orange Fruity Oaty Bars:
Serving size: 1 bar
Cranberry-Orange Fruity Oaty Bars:
Serving size: 1 bar