Turns out if you use the right amount of butter — or at least supplement for the right proportion of wet ingredients — these hold together nicely. (Maureen Tisdale)
I entered daily newspapers with my first job at the Orlando Sentinel when I was 19. I never thought that 20 years later, I would, as one colleague put it, “vote myself off the island.” Yet after much prayerful consideration and discussion with my husband and others, I decided to put in my notice here at The Detroit News to go start my own writer/editer-for-hire business and spend more time with my family.
But enough about that for now. Let me tell you about yesterday, when I realized most of my frustration over my breakfast bar quest has been due to overlooking the fact that a stick of butter is a 1/2 cup, not a cup.
This is not news to me. I’ve measured butter appropriately in a million recipes, including the delicious but too nutty recipe that kicked off this quest last August. But somewhere between when I first made the second recipe in the quest, which my husband liked best (but found just a little too sweet, which sent me experimenting) and the variation that just wouldn’t hold together, I started measuring the butter wrong. Literally dozens of tries later, my husband suggested I go back to the original version of the second attempt’s recipe and see whether those bars held together.
I made some Wednesday and they didn’t hold together — but I thought maybe that was because I’d forgotten parchment paper, so I had to work to chisel the bars out of the pan. Then, when I decided to make one more batch yesterday WITH parchment paper, I went to cut the butter stick at the “right” place and for some reason noticed the actual measurements — and realized my long-standing gaffe.
I didn’t have enough butter for the right amount, so I decided to supplement with some unsweetened applesauce. I used parchment paper, as well as the tweak my husband had suggested for lowering the sweetness — substituting half of the honey I was using with molasses — and voila. At last I have a breakfast bar that holds together, and last night when my husband had one, I got what I was looking for: that enthusiastic nod and gobbling that let me know I’m there. Woo hoo!
How perfect for my good-bye column: (1) the finale to the quest I’ve shared with you most, including derivations like the still-toddler-treasured Bad Muffins, AND (2) one last kitchen misstep of the kind that’s typified Let’s Talk Food, as my interest in food and cooking far outweighs my skill.
Not for nothing, let me say I’ll miss Let’s Talk Food. It’s so incredibly rare we get to have regular, positive interaction with our readers; in 20 years in daily newspapers, this is the only experience that’s led me to actually know readers by name (nod to Julie, Matt, Cathy, Susan, Dennis, Krystine, Neil, Randi, Carole — too many to list all, but it’s just been a pleasure chatting with each of you).
Maybe other newsroom folk — Dawn, Eric, Daniel Howes??? hey you never know who you might see here — or the new food editor, whoever he or she may be, will keep it going. Or maybe it was just for a season, like my career in daily newspapers.
In any case, thank you for your time, your feedback, your suggestions, your ideas. You’ll always have a place in my life, whether in my memories or literally. I doubt I’m done making Carole’s Molasses Cookies (find the recipe in the comments here) from the Cookie Swap adventures, or the Tisdale Colcannon inspired by Dennis — and I still have a printout of Matt’s Enchiladas suggestion in the comments to the LTF requesting reader suggestions for an international potluck, not to mention his influence on the slow-cooker version I still make regularly — and Ziplist continues to be my shopping list method of choice.
Enough sentiment for now — back to the recipe. So the edge pieces held together beautifully, but the middle pieces still had some fragility. I’m thinking I need to either try a darker pan, a longer cook time or surrender the applesauce for butter (though I was so proud of that calorie/sugar/fat saving move), but if you have ideas, lay ’em on me. I’ll be busy next week getting my business started, but I still hope to poke back for any suggestions. You can add them in the comments section below the recipe.
You can follow me on Twitter @reentiz or on Facebook.
Tim's Breakfast Bars
One of our favorite elements of these bars is the relatively short ingredient list of entirely recognizable components; the commercial ones we were trying to find a substitute for had a huge list with lots of preservatives and mystery additives.
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 stick softened butter (ahem — that’s 1/2 cup, Maureen)
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (or butter)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups uncooked whole oats
1 cup chopped dried apples
Preheat your oven to 375. Combine all the ingredients before the oats and mix well. Stir in the oats, and finally the dried apples. Prepare a 9- by 13-inch pan: I sprayed it with cooking spray, then lined it with parchment paper, then for good measure spritzed with cooking spray (I was taking no chances after having to chisel the previous batch). Bake at 375 until golden and bubbly, with the edges browning a little; I did 30 minutes in the glass pan with the parchment paper and still thought they could have stayed a few more, but 18 in the metal pans with no parchment, so you’ll need to keep an eye on yours.
■When you’re measuring the honey and the molasses, I highly recommend using a metal 1/4 cup measure coated with cooking spray — it makes the process go much more quickly.
■I also think you’d do well to combine the wet ingredients and dry separately, adding the chopped dried apples last — I was doing that up until I returned to the original, which is why I listed it that way here — but I forgot and just added them in any old order in my most recent batch, and it went OK.
■Got a wee one in your home? I highly recommend you let him or her press the button for the food processor to whir the dried apples into tiny pieces. Our 2-year-old laughs and laughs when he gets to. I’m not clear why it’s funny, but I’d pay cash money to watch him delight in the process that way.