Mother of four (hungry) boys, Hanna Geller Goldsmith shares her healthy twist on Maida Heatter’s classic Texas Cowboy Bars.
Snacks. They seem to punctuate every activity in our day. The constant desire to eat, regardless of time lapsed since last consuming a mouthful, is a strong inherited gene. In fact, there are members of my family whose hunger is determined by their watch, not their belly.
So, as you can imagine, no activity, outing or play date may be embarked upon without a clearly defined plan as to what will be on hand should anyone be struck down with sudden insatiable hunger. It is the first topic of conversation at the school gates, or on entering and leaving the house. It is like a Pavlovian reaction. Before or after doing anything at all, we must eat.
These bars are a firm family favourite during cranberry season, and are perfect for satisfying hunger pangs at any time of day. They are wonderfully tangy and just sweet enough to keep small people happy without an after school sugar overload. The crispy base is simple and quick to make without the faff of pastry and while cranberries are in abundance I make them at least once a week. As a snack for my boys, they hit the sweet spot, but appease my conscience.
Cranberry Cowboy Bars with Spelt, Oats & Almond
(makes 16 bars)
These were inspired by Maida Heatter’s classic Texas Cowboy Bars and Martha Stewart’s Cranberry Bars.
The cranberry filling is my standard cranberry sauce that is constantly on hand at this time of year (in fact, these bars started life as an answer to a festive cranberry sauce surfeit). I usually double the sauce recipe below and use half for the bars and keep the rest in the fridge, where it will live happily for a few weeks and is delicious not only with turkey, but also with chicken, salmon or on a cheese sandwich.
This recipe uses plain and wholewheat spelt flour – an increasingly popular (and now readily available) grain, which many find more easily digestible and believe to pack a greater nutritional punch than regular wheat flour. It is, however, still a wheat varietal and is unsuitable for cealiacs or those who are gluten intolerant. I have also made these successfully with gluten-free flour and plain flour, so feel free to play around.
I use a 23cm square tin below but an equivalent size oblong tin or high-sided baking sheet is fine as you will be cutting this into squares.
250g (2 1/2 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries* * if using frozen cranberries, do not thaw first 175g (1 3/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 orange (zest and juice)
60g (1/3 cup) soft brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1-2 tbsp water
90g (3/4 cup) wholemeal spelt flour
90g (3/4 cup) plain spelt flour
125g (3/4 cup) soft brown sugar
150g (1 1/2 cups) jumbo porridge oats (not instant cook oats)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50g (1/2 cup) sliced almonds
250g (2 1/2 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries*
* if using frozen cranberries, do not thaw first
175g (1 3/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
For the cranberry filling:
- Rinse cranberries and put in a saucepan with the remaining the ingredients.
- Simmer gently until the cranberries ‘pop’ and break up, around 5-10 minutes (if using frozen berries this may take longer).
- Stir well and remove from the heat.
- Allow to cool and then use for the bars below (or keep, covered, in the fridge for up to 10 days)
To make the bars:
- Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F) and line the base and sides of 24cm (9 1/2 inch) square tin with parchment paper or foil.
- Combine flours, sugar, cinnamon, salt, oats and half the sliced almonds in a bowl
- Add butter and mix together. It wills seem a bit like a crumble topping
- Tip 2/3 of the mixture into the prepared tin and press down to make the base
- Spread cranberry mixture evenly over the base and crumble the remaining mixture over the top to make the crumb
- Sprinkle over the rest of the almonds and pop into the oven
- Cook for 45 minutes until golden
- Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars