Life is sweet: Oatmeal toffee bars
December 5, 2005
It’s ironic … a real Catch-22. The time of the year when most of us are the busiest is exactly when we’re expected to create beautiful home-baked goods and have them ready for any occasion at a moment’s notice. No wonder the holidays make us crazy! I’ve learned that no matter how much I’d like to devote my December days to creating inspired edibles, it’s not going to happen. I only have time to complete recipes that come together quickly and I look for ones that store well and are versatile enough to be served at almost any time.The oatmeal bars featured in this column meet those criteria. They look good and are very tasty, with a caramelized base that is reminiscent of toffee and a chocolate and almond topping. While the use of oatmeal made me think initially that this was a cookie for kids, it turns out adults love it, too. The recipe makes a lot, freezes beautifully, and can be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container for a week or so. They also travel well, so arrange some nicely in a cookie tin and you’re ready for just about anything. Make in a 15- by 10-inch baking pan
IngredientsBase41/2 cups of rolled oats 1 cup of dark brown sugar, packed firmly1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons of unsalted butter (11/2 sticks), melted3/4 cup of light corn syrup1 tablespoon of vanillaTopping2 cups (12 ounces) of good semisweet chocolate chips (I use Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate chips)2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
2/3 cup of finely chopped almonds Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, with the rack in the center position.Line the pan with Reynold’s Release foil or plain aluminum foil, extending it beyond the sides of the pan so that you can grasp the foil and pick it up. If you are using plain foil, spray it with Baker’s Joy or grease it. When I bake at sea level, I often don’t bother to line the pan. But at our altitude, where baked good stick every easily, I do it religiously. In a large bowl, combine all of the base ingredients: the oats, brown sugar, salt, melted butter, corn syrup and vanilla. Mix them well with a spoon or with your fingers. Pat the mixture into the pan, leveling, compacting and smoothing it with your hands. Wetting your hands or lightly greasing them will speed this step up. Bake the base until it is light golden brown, about 15 minutes. It will bubble and may look like it is coming apart, but it will settle back down when it cools. Remove it from the oven and cool it completely on a rack.
Make the topping: Melt the chocolate chips and butter together in a saucepan over very low heat. Stir continuously until the mixture is smooth and all chips and butter are melted. Spread the topping evenly over the cooled base and sprinkle the chopped almonds over top. Gently press the almonds into the chocolate so they won’t fall off when you cut the cookie. Refrigerate the pan, covered loosely with foil (take care not to let the foil touch the topping) until the chocolate is set. Use the foil overhang as handles to remove the cookie from the pan. Then, cut the cookies into squares or fingers. I use a long, thin sharp carving knife to do this. If you are going to freeze or refrigerate some or all of the bars before serving them, store them in the large block and cut them when you are going to use them; this helps prevent them from drying out. At room temperature, the base of the bars is a bit sticky, so don’t serve them on a paper napkin or anything else that may stick to them. – This recipe is a variation of one found in “The King Arthur’s Flour All-Purpose Baking Cookbook.”Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. If your business or organization would like to sample and review a baked good for inclusion in this column, contact Vera Dawson at firstname.lastname@example.org