Cherry Chocolate Almond Coconut Oatmeal Bars

Running after-school errands the other day, I decided to dash into World Market to have a look around.  They usually have capers for a good price, so I moseyed over to the food aisles.  Capers were nowhere to be found, so I snagged the next best luxury–a lusty looking bar of dark chocolate studded with almonds and dried cherries, wrapped in bright red paper.  Slipping it into my cart, I told myself I’d save it for a special occasion to share with friends.  Or, if that didn’t transpire then I’d at least savor it bit by bit over the course of a week or so.

The following day, I was busy on the computer all morning and when I went to rifle around for something to eat for lunch, there it was–THE TEMPTER.   All it took was one bite… and rather than letting those little fat and calorie numbers on the wrapper ruin my indulgence, I concentrated on how seriously rich in antioxidants this “meal” was and how the almonds were protein and calcium, the cherries were fruit and a dose of vitamin C, and really, I should do this more often!!

Despite the horrible blood sugar drop later that day, creative inspiration ensued.  I wanted to recreate that same flavor combination, but in the form of a more wholesome treat and make it gluten and dairy-free, so that my son and anyone else with food allergies could enjoy.  There was even an insanely delicious jar of Central Market’s Organic Morello Cherry Jam sitting in my pantry just begging to be showcased in some divine concoction!  The following recipe is what I developed, loosely basing it on Dorie Greenspan‘s recipe for Chocolate Oatmeal Almost Candy Bars in one of my favorite baking cookbooks, Baking, From My Home to Yours.  These bars are scrumptious!  Just sweet enough, the oat/nut base is the perfect toothsome platform for the tangy cherries and melted chocolate.  The coconut provides additional texture and adds another flavor dimension that is out of this world.  I highly suggest you go make these for someone you love…right now.  GO.

Recipe for Chocolate Cherry Coconut Almond Oatmeal Bars:

yields:  12 rectangular bars                       total cooking time:  40 min.

Ingredients:

3/4  C. Gluten-Free Flour Blend

1 1/4 C. Quick Cooking Gluten-Free Oats

2 T. Ground Flax

1/2 t. Baking Soda

1/4 t. Xanthan Gum

1/4 t. Sea Salt

1/2 C.  Coconut Oil

3/4 C. Light Brown Sugar

1 Egg

1 t. Vanilla

1/2 C. Sliced Almonds (coarsely chopped)

1/2 C. Cherry Jam

1/4 C. Dried Cherries, chopped and soaked in hot water

1/4 C. Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips

3/4 C. Shredded Coconut (unsweetened)

Directions:

Spray or coat an 8″ x 8″ square glass baking pan with coconut oil.

Preheat oven to 350°.

For the base oat layer:

In a large bowl, combine GF Flour, baking soda, sea salt, xanthan gum.  Whisk together.  Add oats , flax, and almonds and whisk again.  Set aside.  In bowl of stand mixer with paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl with hand-held electric beater), beat coconut oil and sugar together on medium til creamy.  Add the egg and vanilla and continue to mix until egg is completely incorporated.  Turn speed to low and add the bowl of dry ingredients.  Reserve 3/4 C. of oat mixture.  Evenly press remaining batter into the bottom of the pan.  Place in center of the oven and bake for about 15 min. or until surface is very light brown and appears dry.  Allow to sit for 2-3 min.

For the cherry layer, carefully spread the cherry jam across the surface of the oat layer with an offset spatula.  Squeeze water from soaked cherries and sprinkle evenly on to the jam.  Distribute chocolate chips over jam.

For the topping, return reserved oat mixture to the mixing bowl and blend in the coconut with the paddle attachment. Crumble this topping mixture evenly over the cherry/chocolate mixture.  Return to the oven and continue to bake for another 25 min. or until top layer is completely golden brown.  Allow to cool before cutting into bars.  Store tightly covered at room temperature or wrap each bar and freeze for up to 3 months.

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