and all through the house
not a creature was stirring
except for a frustrated sleep-deprived baker
It was bound to happen sooner or later. I’d been having far too good a run of late, what with all these new recipes over the past few months turning out beautifully on the first attempt, and I’ll admit that I was starting to get a little cocky. Oh don’t get me wrong, I hadn’t thrown caution to the wind and stopped weighing and measuring, but I was expecting great results every time. Last night put a stop to that.
Today was my fortnightly research group meeting, and I needed to make something that was both relatively quick (as I didn’t have a lot of free time last night) and would also keep well in the car while I was busy prior to the meeting. So, no croquembouche or cheesecake! (Although, a croquembouche cheesecake would be awesome…)
I was flicking through my Canadian baking cookbook from which I have produced such delights as Almond & Black Pepper Biscotti, Onion & Walnut Scones, Baklava and Snippety Snip Cake, and came across a simple and tasty looking slice – Orange Raisin Squares, which apparently are “rich-tasting squares with the wonderful combination of orange and raisins”.
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tb cocoa, sifted if lumpy
2 large eggs
1 cup coarsely chopped raisins
1/3 cup flake coconut
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tb orange juice
1 Tb all purpose flour
1 Tb cocoa, sifted if lumpy
1 Tb finely grated orange zest
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1. Combine all 4 ingredients in medium bowl until crumbly.
2. Press evenly in bottom of ungreased 9 x 9 inch (22 x 22 cm) pan.
3. Bake in 375 F/190 C oven for 15 minutes.
4. Beat eggs in separate medium bowl until frothy.
5. Add remaining 9 ingredients. Stir well.
6. Spread evenly over bottom layer in pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until firm.
7. Let stand in pan on wire rack until cooled completely. Cuts into 36 squares.
(1 square: 74 calories; 3.7 g total fat (0.9 g mono, 0.2 g poly, 2.3 g saturated); 19 mg cholesterol, 10 g carbohydrate; 1 g fibre; 1 g protein; 54 mg sodium)
After making them and waiting patiently, I finally decided that it was cool enough, and sliced it up into 36 little squares. I was quite pleased with my efforts, as they looked and smelled quite nice, but then I tried one. The first word that came to mind, apart from “ugh” was “powdery”. The base was as dry as it possibly could be. Drier than talcum powder flying through a desert, drier than my skin was when living through a Montreal winter, drier than my eyeballs when playing a particularly close race in MarioKart. Disaster! Luckily the top was delicious and moist, but the base seemed unsalvageable. I was also now quite thirsty.
By this stage it was getting pretty late, and I was quite tired, so trying to think of how to fix this powdery mess was quite taxing. I still had some oranges left over from the zesting, so I thought that perhaps I could sit the slice in some orange juice briefly to let it soak some up. I did this, and although it looked like it had done the trick, closer inspection revealed that now the base was an inexplicable combination of dry/powdery and soggy. Awesome. Soggy bottomed slice. Slipping further into baking delirium I then began singing the Soggy Bottom Boys song “I am a man of constant sorrow” (which I still have stuck in my head).
Hoping my sighing and singing was not floating upstairs to my sleeping housemate’s bedroom, I then decided that the base was a totally lost cause, and so out came the knife and off came their bottoms.
At this stage I should have gone to bed.
But no. I decided, in my infinite midnight wisdom, that these formerly soggy bottom slices simply would not do for my meeting, and I would have to make something else to supplement the half slices. Something that would be quick and easy and keep well and I had all the ingredients to make. I remembered reading of these Tropical Granola Bars on For the love of cooking recently, and thinking how tasty they sounded. A quick scan through the recipe revealed I had almost everything I needed and could fiddle with the rest.
So, back into the kitchen and back on with the oven. This recipe was super easy and fast and I had it cooking away in no time. Although it would be hilarious if I then fell asleep and it burnt to a crisp, it was soon cooked, left out on the stove to cool, and I was tucking myself into bed.
Tropical Muesli Bars
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup golden syrup
1/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar
35 g (2 Tb) unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup shredded desiccated coconut
1/2 cup chocolate chips (and extra for drizzling over top if you like)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1. Grease a 9 x 9 inch (22 x 22 cm) baking pan. Preheat oven to 350 F / 175 C.
2. Spread the oats and nuts over another (ungreased) baking pan and toast in oven for 5-7 minutes until it has taken on some colour (and smells tasty!).
3. Meanwhile, combine the golden syrup, brown sugar, butter, vanilla extract and salt in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until the brown sugar has completely dissolved.
4. Once the oat mixture is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the oven temp to 300 F / 150 C. Immediately add the oat mixture to the brown sugar mixture, stirring through, then add the coconut, chocolate chips and cranberries. Stir well to combine.
5. Spread the mixture evenly into the greased pan and press down firmly. It will be quite sticky and a little annoying to work with at first, but then it settles down a bit and will do what it is told.
6. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
7. Remove from the oven, allow to cool completely, then slice however you like. I cut mine into 18 bars. I also then melted some extra chocolate chips and drizzled them over the top for an extra chocolate hit.
8. I think these will store very well in an airtight container, and am sure you could also freeze them if you need to.
Praise the heavens, these were really great! I’m not a huge muesli bar eater, but I’ll be making these again for sure. It would be really easy to change up the fruit and nuts in them too… the possible versions are endless, endless I say! Plus, I think they’d make a great pre or post gym snack.
When my British housemate spied the tray of uncut muesli bars in the kitchen this morning, she declared that I had made “flapjacks”. According to Wikipedia, “flapjack is a name for two different sweet foods – in the UK and Australia, it refers to a tray-baked biscuit, and in Canada, the US and South Africa it refers to a form of pancake”. They then go on to add “similar products are known in Australia as ‘muesli bars'”. Also, Pam’s original recipe calls them “granola bars” so it seems that we have at least three names for these. I’ve never heard such things called flapjacks before, so I’m wondering if Wikipedia is wrong (gasp!) or if it is maybe an eastern states phenomenon, or if I’m just ignorant? I’d rather not have produced the world’s driest biscuit base and learnt of further culinary ignorance in the same day, so I’m hoping that it is not the latter.
After everyone in my research group sampled at least one of each of the slices, they were both declared delicious successes and so it seems I successfully salvaged the soggy bottom boys. I may experiment making them again with a different base, or with no base at all, as the top part is actually really tangy and rich and tasty. It might actually be quite nice on a little pastry, with some custard drizzled over, but that is surely a task for another day. Time now for leftovers and coffee.