Turn wholesome oats into gooey, chewy granola bars

Coco Morante

Rolled oats and whole wheat flour impart a halo of health food wholesomeness to these granola bars, but don't be fooled — these granola bars belong firmly in the dessert category. Those whole-grain ingredients are here for their satisfying chew, and a good measure of salt brings out their depth of flavor. Just enough (read: a lot of) butter and brown sugar hold the streusely granola in bar form — allow them to cool completely before slicing so they'll be firm enough to hold their shape.

For the jam filling, I used a couple jars of homemade apricot-rhubarb preserves that were hiding in the pantry, the end of my stash from last summer's canning, but the granola acts as the perfect blank canvas for any flavor of jam. Use whatever variety you like best, store-bought or homemade. It'll bake into a gooey, chewy layer, concentrating in flavor as it cooks sandwiched between the layers of granola.

I sliced my bars into 18 generous servings, but you can certainly go with a more dainty square if you like. I recommend serving the bars in a cupcake liner to catch any errant crumbs, but any way you go, you've got a winner on your hands.


Jam-Filled Granola Bars

Serves 18.

1 3/4 cups walnut or pecan halves

2 1/3 cups brown sugar

3 cups rolled oats, divided

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat or spelt flour

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

16 tablespoons (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened at room temperature

2 cups fruit jam (any flavor)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with a sling of parchment paper.

In a food processor, briefly pulse the walnut halves until coarsely chopped. Place in a large mixing bowl and mix in the brown sugar and 2 cups of the oats. (See Recipe Notes for making this recipe without a food processor.)

In the now-empty food processor, combine the remaining 1 cup of oats with the all-purpose and whole wheat flours, salt and baking powder. Process in brief pulses until oats are pulverized, about 10 one-second pulses. Add the butter to the food processor and pulse briefly until the butter is fully incorporated, about five one-second pulses.

Combine the oat-butter mixture with the chopped walnuts, brown sugar and oats in the mixing bowl. Use a dough whisk or sturdy long-handled spoon to mix until the ingredients are thoroughly blended — the mixture will still be loose and crumbly, but should hold together if you press a little in your fist. You can also complete this step in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, if desired.

Transfer half of the granola mixture to the lined baking dish and press it down firmly, making sure to spread it out evenly all the way to the edges and corners of the dish. Dollop the jam on top, and then spread it into an even layer with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the second half of the granola mixture over the top of the jam in an even layer, patting it gently into the jam to create a flat surface.

Bake the bars just until the top is lightly browned and the jam has begun to bubble up around the edges, about 35 minutes. Rotate the baking dish once during cooking.

Remove bars from oven and allow to cool completely in the pan, about three hours. Slice into 2- by 3-inch bars and serve, or store in a tightly lidded container for up to one week.

Recipe notes

■If your jam is very thick, warm it in a microwave-safe bowl or on top of a double boiler until it reaches a more spreadable consistency.

■If you don't have a food processor, you can definitely still make this recipe! Just chop the walnuts by hand, and blitz a cup of the rolled oats in a coffee/spice grinder or mini-chopper before combining with the rest of the dry ingredients. You'll also need to cut the butter into the flour by hand or with a pastry blender.

Gluten-free variation: Substitute two cups of an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend for the all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour.

Vegan variation: Substitute coconut oil for the butter.

Tropical variation: Substitute two cups of shredded, unsweetened coconut for the chopped nuts, and use coconut oil instead of butter. For the jam layer, use guava, papaya or other tropical fruit preserves.

Per serving: 462 calories; 19 g fat (7 g saturated fat; 37 percent calories from fat); 72 g carbohydrates; 44 g sugar; 29 mg cholesterol; 211 mg sodium; 6 g protein; 3 g fiber.