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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I'm Insane...Mixed Berry & Apple Almond Granola Bars

Alright, that's it. I've lost it. I've completely lost my mind. In the midst of all this writing/working/chaos I've suddenly decided to attempt making granola bars for a set I'm production managing this weekend from scratch. Why? I have no idea. Well, that's a lie, I have some idea. I saw this recipe for Raspberry Breakfast bars on Smitten Kitchen (one of the great food blogs, of course) ages ago, and since then I've had it in the back of my mind to attempt them. But why, why oh why, did I decide to make them for at least 20 people and in the middle of a week where I'm prepping for this shoot as well as trying to get all my work done??? It's because I'm insane, nothing else to it.

Shooting starts at 5 am and goes till about 5 pm every day, which made me think "Gee, we need really good breakfast foods." Another excuse for me to try and make these. So of course, if you're going to be cooking for a set, you've got to make at least two batches, which is what I did. One is a mixed berry from frozen berries, the other is apples and almonds. I figured if I cut them up small enough, they'd last at least a day and a half (hopefully). Oh, and just to add to my masochism, I made these around midnight, and didn't finish till about 3 am. Yeah, this is not a recipe to just "whip up" any old night. It takes some forethought.

This is the consistency your crumb/crust mixture should reach
Having said that, I knew I was onto something good when I tasted the crumb mixture. If I had a spoon and no conscience, I could've eaten that alone no problem. It was AWESOME. The cinnamon, butter, brown sugar,'s hard to go wrong with a combination like that. The only problem was, my food processor couldn't handle all the dry ingredients. So I just cut up the oats with the flour, and then did the rest by hand. Mind you, it can be done, but mixing 3 sticks worth of butter cubes into a heap of flour, oats and sugar is no small feat. Took a while, but in the end was worth it.

One reason I may have decided to spend my night covered in oats and brown sugar is to distract me. See, I just turned in my application for the coveted This American Life internship a few days ago, and it's been driving me crazy. I want this job. I really want this job. And not only that, I know I would be good at it. But I don't find out for another three weeks. So till then, I spend my nights baking to drown out the thoughts in my head. Thank god there's a bunch of hungry filmmakers to eat most of this stuff, otherwise I'd probably weigh about 348 pounds.

Mixed berry granola bars
Now, I said this wasn't the easiest recipe, but the bars are tasty. Now, I say "granola", but they're a bit more dessert-like than that. These could easily be served as a luxurious brunch item, or as a substitute for a scone with afternoon tea. Or just any old time you feel like eating something sweet and delicious, with a bit of fruit. And of course, the great thing about these is you can do pretty much anything to them. My next combination most likely will be chocolate ganache and peanut butter (I know, my heart skipped a beat too).

Other than being antsy, I'm going to start upping my baking schedule because of one very important upcoming event: the annual Tisch Grad Film Bake-Off!!! Yeah, I think it goes without saying that I'm entering, but it's gotten around that I'm the one to beat. And now it seems I've got a fair bit of competition. I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a little bit of pressure: I seriously have to nail this. So if anyone has any ideas as to what might be a sure-fire winner, please, I need help!
Apple almond granola bars
Sadly, since it was around 2 am, I burned the bottom crust of the apple bars. I tasted them later, and they're fine, but not as stellar as they could have been. Just be careful when your bottom crust is in the oven to not let it get too brown. Also, I should mention that there is a higher ratio of crust to fruit in both these bars. While that's not altogether a bad thing (like I said, the crust is dee-licious), but if you're looking for something more fruit-centric, I'd add more. You could probably up the apple bars to three, even three and a half apples, and an extra half pound of berries for the mixed berry ones.

Alright. Time to get my life in order. The bars are done, I've got a few new pages of my script, and I can't do anything more about my TAL application so I'm going to stop thinking about it. Yes, things are going to start falling in place, I can feel it! I'm going to be productive! Hmm...or I could make roasted chicken breasts w/ sauteed kale and sunchokes and just tell you guys how that goes.... (more on this endeavor later)

Mixed Berry & Apple Almond Granola Bars

For crust/crumb:
1 ½ cups flour
1 ¼ cups rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar
¾ tsp salt
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp cinnamon
¾ cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces (room temperature)

For mixed berry filling:
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tbsp lemon zest
½ tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp flour
½ tsp salt
1 pound frozen berries (I used a mixture of strawberry, blueberry, blackberry and raspberry)
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For almond apple filling:
¼ and 2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp lemon zest
2 tbsp flour
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced into small pieces
1/3 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9”x13” baking pan with cooking spray. Take a long piece of parchment paper and place on bottom, allowing extra to hang over sides of pan (you’re essentially making a sling for the bars).

If you have a large food processor, put all of the crust ingredients into the food processor and blend till you get a dry, crumbly mixture (about 40 to 50 seconds) If you don’t: put flour and oats in your dinky food processor. Process for 20 to 25 seconds, till well combined, and the oats have been ground down. Dump into large mixing bowl. Add sugar, salt, baking powder and soda, and cinnamon. Whisk thoroughly. Place the butter pieces into the dry ingredients in two batches. With the first batch in, use your fingers to combine and mix the butter into the ingredients, pushing the butter into the flour mixture. When the first batch is pretty much combined, add the second and repeat. This does take a few minutes, but it’s worth it!

Reserve 1 ½ cups of crust mixture. Take the rest and place in prepared baking pan and press into the bottom, all the way to the sides. Put in oven and bake for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Take out of oven and cool.

For the fillings, the first step with both versions is to mix the brown sugar, zest, cinnamon (and nutmeg for apples), flour and salt in a small mixing bowl.  Place defrosted berries or apples and almonds in larger bowl and pour sugar mixture on top. Toss fruit to coat completely. Add lemon juice and butter and mix with spatula.

Pour fruit mixture on top of cooled crust and spread out to edges. (The berry mixture will look like it’s not enough, but don’t worry.) Take reserved crust mixture and sprinkle on top, till the fruit is completely covered. Press down on the crumb so it seals the fruit in between the layers of dough.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes till top is golden brown, rotating pan every 15 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then use parchment paper sling to remove from pan. Cool to room temperature and cut into bars/squares. Will keep refrigerated for 2 days (long if frozen).

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