It’s Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend, and I’m extra thankful for the abundance of new and great cookbooks right now. I’m in a DEEP creative rut, and can’t seem to zero in on any sort of recipe development project that really excites me these days. I really do think that a big part of doing something creative for a living is letting yourself get pulled in other directions to find new inspiration/new paths. I’ve been extra open to that process lately and, in all honesty, it’s given way to some fairly boring meals on the regular in our house. I mean, we eat well and enjoy it, but it’s all taken on a bit of a food-as-fuel aspect. Smoothies and random, huge chopped salads on repeat. The simplicity leaves me a bit of extra time for working on my fitness, getting outside, journaling like a fiend, and thinking up new ways to re-configure our living room/everything else in our house. I’m just really into the physical right now, less into the planning and conceptualizing of future things to eat. The feeling and the doing in real time are serving me better lately :)
You guys may already know by now that I approach almost all baking/dessert projects with a little bit of dread. I know some people find baking relaxing, but I just can’t get on that level. I haven’t even had that many true disasters, but taking this stuff on still makes me a bit irritable. Most of my outings with sweets are simple things that can also tag along with a coffee and be called breakfast if you believe hard enough. If you’re coming over to my place for dinner, you can bet the dessert was based on a trusted source that I followed to a tee (ooorrr I bought it). I don’t take chances anymore.
I can generally spy a photo from The Bojon Gourmet a mile away. Alanna’s blog is a sophisticated source of whole food inspiration, and her vivid imagery beams me in every time. She comes from a professional background, and it shows in her recipe instructions. Lots of sensory cues and very real anticipation of how a cook is going to use her recipes in real life. ALTERNATIVE BAKER is Alanna’s brand new book, and it is such a thoughtful exploration of flavourful, nutritious, and gluten-free flours. Buckwheat pie dough finds its match with ripe pears and salty caramel. Little chocolate cakes are boosted with the naturally complementary flavour of mesquite flour. The nuttiness of sorghum flour nestles in with ripe and juicy peaches for a pillowy oven pancake. It’s all very smart, and you get a feeling from right off the page that it’s all outrageously good.
Since we’re in a grab-and-go phase right now, these no-bake oat bars stood out for me. Also, I will try any and all renditions of a granola bar-like recipe that has chocolate. This one is extra good. Alanna goes the extra mile and has you toast the oats and the almonds, and it makes all the difference (even though I almost burnt my almonds oops). I made these to the letter and they were perfect. Just the right hit of tart structure from the cherries, lots of nutty and roasty flavours, crave-able crunchy/chewy texture, and just enough hemp seeds to push these bars into superfood territory. I only messed up one little thing–I used roasted and salted almond butter and then proceeded to add the salt in the recipe–and they were still great.
Love to you all. Hope all my Canadian pals have a great holiday weekend, too <3
NO-BAKE OAT BARS WITH SOUR CHERRIES, HEMP & CHOCOLATE
From ALTERNATIVE BAKER: reinventing dessert with gluten-free grains and flours by Alanna Taylor-Tobin
SERVES: Makes 16 bars
NOTES: Alanna notes this in the recipe, and I agree: these bars look small, but they’re definitely rich and satisfying. I want to try these with hazelnut butter so badly because I imagine there would be a Nutella vibe once everything’s all mingled with the chocolate.
1 cup smooth, unsalted almond butter (stirred and at room temperature)
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 1/2 cups certified GF old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1/4 cup hulled hemp seeds
1/4 cup cacao nibs
1 tablespoon extra-virgin coconut oil
3/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
flaky sea salt, cacao nibs and hemp seeds, for sprinkling
In a large bowl, whisk together the almond butter, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Set aside.
Place the oats in s wide, heavy-bottomed skillet set over low heat, and toast until golden and fragrant, about 8-12 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour the warm oats into the bowl with the almond butter mixture. Add the almonds to the skillet and place back on the low heat. Toast the almonds until golden and fragrant, about 4-6 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the almonds to the bowl with the oats, along with the dried cherries, hemp seeds, and cacao nibs. Use a strong and flexible spatula to stir everything together until combined. I had to get in there with my hands, so if yours seems quite sticky, that should be fine.
Line an 8-inch square pan with a sling of parchment paper that overhangs on the sides. Scrape the oat mixture into the pan and press it down evenly with slightly damp hands until you have a flat surface of even thickness.
To make the topping, combine the coconut oil and chopped chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir the mixture often until completely melted and smooth. Pour the melted chocolate over the oat bars. Tilt the pan to distribute the chocolate evenly. Sprinkle the top with flaky sea salt, cacao nibs, and hemp seeds.
Place the pan of oat bars in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. When you’re ready to cut, loosen the edges of the bars with the tip of a knife before pulling the bars out by the edges of the parchment sling. Cut bars into 16 even squares. Store the cut bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.