A few years ago, The Beloved and I went to visit Aunt Charlotte at the retirement complex she lived in. At the time, she boasted that she never had to go outside because everything she needed was Right There. We smiled and allowed as how that was Pretty Awesome, but we were lying through our teeth. Who in their right mind would be happy about never going outside?
Turns out, it depends Completely upon the weather. My favorite is 78F with a cool breeze. The Beloved’s is about 82F with a warm breeze. We both understand that we can’t always have our Favorite, so we often Leave the Premises when it’s chilly or even cold or Rather Hot. But this week, it has overshot both Rather Hot and Really Hot and is Squarely in Holy Crap It’s Hot territory. Yes friends, we are in the middle of an Historic Heatwave, and I finally can say that, right this very second, I am positively thrilled that I don’t have to leave the house at all if I don’t absolutely have to.
Unfortunately, we had to venture forth yesterday because it was the Neighborhood Fourth of July party. That alone wouldn’t have brought us out, but our neighbor Thomas (of Great Brownie Caper fame) roasted a gorgeous local happy pig and other neighbor Susan (of Kitchen Sink Sangria fame) made yummy potato salad (which I may have coached her through making), so we had to go to support our troops, as it were. And eat pig and potato salad.
The only Rub was that, since our house has an even house number, we had to bring a dessert. Which isn’t normally a bad thing. I mean, I kinda make a lot of desserts. But: heat. Extreme heat. And ovens. Blech. I figured I’d make something that I didn’t need to go to the store to shop for, so I rummaged about and realized that I had all of the makings for my mom’s Oatmeal Raisin Bars. Sort of. But, because I’m me, I was all “Close enough!”
I have no idea where my mom got the recipe, but she used to make these guys and send them with us in our lunch boxes. Sometimes she’d make them for after school snacks. And we loved them. So yummy. There’s just something kind of comforting about oatmeal and raisins, whether they come in a bowl, a cookie or a bar. If you are not, however, a Fan of raisins, please use whatever dried fruit that you do like. I didn’t have enough raisins, so I made up the difference with some dried cranberries, but dried blueberries, cherries, apricots, figs–any of these, or a mixture, would be fantastic. Give them a try. Then take them to the pool party and stay just long enough to eat some pig and potato salad before running back to the AC to watch HGTV. But that’s just a suggestion.
Oh, and guess what? No eggs! The oatmeal base is kinda like a flour-heavy streusel, which is no way can be considered a bad thing.
For the Crust
- 4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 6.6-7 oz (1 cup, packed) brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 7 oz (about 1 1/2 cups) all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups rolled oats, (I just used a measuring cup, myself:)
- 2 Tablespoons water, , divided
For the Fruit
- 1.75 oz brown sugar, (about 1/4 cup, lightly packed)
- 8 oz (1 cup) water (you could also use apple juice, cranberry juice or whatever sounds good for the water, but you might have to adjust the sugar)
- 1 Tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 cup raisins, (I used a "raisin medley")
- 1 cup dried cranberries, (I used Craisins)
- pinch or two of salt
- zest of 1/2 orange, (You could also use 3-4 drops of orange oil, which is what I did)
- Preheat your oven to 350F.
- Spray a 9"x13" baking pan with pan spray. Set aside.
For the Crust
- Combine butter, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Mix on medium-low speed until you no longer see pieces of butter and the mixture is nice and smooth.
- Beat in 1 Tablespoon of the water.
- Whisk together the flour, baking soda and oats.
- Dump into the mixer and mix on low speed until well combined. Scrape the bowl as necessary.
For the Fruit
- Combine all the ingredients except the orange oil in a medium sauce pan. If you're using zest, go ahead and add it now.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about ten minutes.
- Remove from heat and, if using, stir in the orange oil.
- Let the mixture cool for about fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally.
To Assemble and Bake
- Press about 2/3 of the crust mixture into your pan in an even layer. It should be about 1/4" thick.
- Spread on the fruit in an even layer. Make sure to take it all the way to the edges.
- Add the remaining 1 Tablespoon of water to the remaining crust mixture and mix well. Drop small "nuggets" of crust mixture all over the top of the fruit layer. You want to see some fruit peeking through, but make sure you get a nice even layer of crumbs.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is firm and deeply golden brown.
- Let cool on a rack until room temperature.
- Glaze and let set up before slicing. If you're not going to glaze them, go ahead and slice them. These keep well at room temperature for 3-4 days.
- Freeze for longer storage.
If you want thicker bars, use a 9"x9" pan. Bake for half an hour, and then turn the heat down to 325F. Continue baking until the crust is a lovely deep golden brown.
Glaze them as you see fit, but they are fantastic naked, too.
You could always heat these up (or serve straight from the oven) as a kind of dried fruit crisp. In this case, ice cream is advisable.
You will love these. I promise. Enjoy them, and thank my mom next time you see her.
Take care, thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.