The whole bar-or-square debate weighs heavy on my mind. I don’t know why, and of course I’m sure there are other things my cookie-dough brain should be worrying about.
But alas, bar-or-square somehow consumes more time than the actual baking. (Yes, I am looking for a therapist as I write.) So what did I end up with? Cherry Pie Bars.
I know, very anti-climatic after my babbling, but this treat is delicious, reasonably simple, and fits so well into this wonderful month I call February. I like to cut and serve these big — they are pretty and rustic all at the same time. And that’s why I went with bar instead of square. Very deep and thought provoking, I know.
The bars have an oatmeal cookie base with a hint of cinnamon, and a few almonds for texture and flavor. I use dried cherries and then plump and moisten these babies up bigger than the lips of the lovechild of Angelina Jolie and Steven Tyler. The tartness and zing of the cherries with the sweet, crunchy crust makes for a nice contrast in flavor.
These guys travel great, so they are nice to take to someone who deserves a little extra attention. If you really want to jazz things up for that someone special, you could soak the cherries in a little vodka first. Of course, the vodka will bake off in the oven, so I suggest making a little extra on the side just to have at the ready. You never know when you might need some vodka-soaked cherries. I mean, I always know, but you might not. That’s why you have me to fill you in on those things.
So call them bars, squares — I don’t care (see, my therapy is already working), just don’t call them rectangles. I’m off to deliver some goodies, my cherry-it awaits. Ba-dum ching!
Now, follow the directions, put some love into it and invite me over when it’s done.
Cherry Pie Bars
2-1/2 cups dried cherries
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 cups flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup softened unsalted butter
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups oatmeal (quick oats)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Powdered sugar for dusting
In small saucepan, combine dried cherries, water, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and let simmer 8-10 minutes until it thickens. Take off heat and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving foil coming up the sides for easy removal. Spray lightly with a nonstick cooking spray.
In small bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
In large bowl, beat softened butter and brown sugar until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until well combined. Add in flour, mix until just incorporated. Add oatmeal and stir until batter is combined.
Pour a little more than half of batter into prepared baking pan. Smooth out evenly in pan. Pour prepared cherry mixture on top and spread evenly.
Add remaining batter over top of cherries and smooth. It won’t be enough to cover all the way to edges, and that’s OK. Sprinkle sliced almonds over top.
Bake for 25 minutes, until top is golden brown. Take out and let cool. Grab foil, and pull bars out of pan. Fold down edges of foil. Dust with powdered sugar. Cut into 16 bars (you can make bars big or small, depending on what you like). Enjoy!
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