TO BAKE: CHERRY BERRY BARS

I often, especially at that hour after my students leave, but can’t yet leave school to pick up my own little loves, find myself in need of something to munch on. I’ve gone through phases of handfuls of pretzels, tupperware-d muffins, little jars of plain yogurt with granola, tins of chex mix, baggies of graham crackers, or a simple, not overly sweet cake wrapped up in a napkin and tucked in my lunch box to enjoy with a steaming mug of peppermint tea in the afternoon.

But a couple weeks ago, it was after the boys had gone to bed, and I had in my mind these date bars that are a bit of a tradition for me to bake pre-anywhere travel. It had been a long school day, I had been making lists all week of things that needed to be remembered and packed before our trip. I typically double Smitten Kitchen’s recipe to fit in my 9×9 square baking pan, and to make more of a thick breakfast bar than the single recipe makes.

As you can probably see where I’m going where this, a few things went awry in my dark of night cooking. I was doubling all the ingredients in my head (always write them down. always!). I also didn’t have exactly all of the ingredients that the recipe called for – dried cherries rather than dates, frozen fruit to make up the difference, regular granulated sugar instead of raw, ginger instead of cloves, and the use of a whole cup instead of a half measuring cup. A few changes and mistakes that led to the greatness of a crumbly but chewy, sweet but tangy, sweet but also a little salt to take the edge off, homemade granola bar. The perfect after- school, or afternoon treat to enjoy with a hot cozy drink in a mug.

Homemade Cherry-Berry Granola Bars

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the filling:

What you need: 

5 ounces dried cherries
1 cup frozen (or fresh) mixed berries
1/2 cup water

What to do: 

+ Combine cherries, berries and water in a small saucepan.

+ Simmer over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes until the liquid has absorbed and begun to thicken.

+ Set aside while you make the dough.

For the dough:

What you need: 

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cups oats, quick-cooking or old-fashioned, plus another 1/4 cup for topping
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

What to do: 

+ Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease sides and bottom of a 9×9 baking pan.

+ In a large mixing bowl, or in a Kitchenaid mixer, combine the sugars and oil. Add the flour, 1/2 cup of the oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking soda and salt. The mixture will be the consistency of a cookie dough.

+ Press about 3/4 of the mixture into the bottom of your baking pan. Spread your filling on top.

+ To the remaining 1/4 of the dough, add 1/4 cup of oats and mix together. Sprinkle this on top of the fruit filling and press lightly to cover.

+ Bake for 30 minutes or until light brown at the edges. Cut into squares after cooled. Store at room temperature if eating soon, refrigerator for about a week, or freezer for longer.