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 plan, outing or gathering with friends is complete without adequate refreshments, or the discussion of 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. Like a Pavlov reaction, before or after doing anything at all, we must eat.
These bars are a firm favourite during cranberry season, and are perfect for indulging those hunger pangs at any time of day. They are both festive, wonderfully tangy and not terribly sweet with a crispy base that is simple and quick to make without the faff of pastry. While cranberries are in abundance, I make them at least once a week. And as for a snack, they hit the sweet spot, but appease my conscience.
Note: The cranberry filling is my standard cranberry sauce that is constantly on hand at this time of year (in fact, these bars are the product of too much sauce post a Thanksgiving feast). I usually double the 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 chicken, salmon or on a cheese sandwich. I have also made them successfully with plain flour and gluten free flour, so feel free to play around.
Cranberry Bars, with Spelt Oat and Almonds
Inspired by Maida Heater’s Texas Cowboy Bars (a 1970’s classic), and Martha Stewart’s Cranberry Bars
Makes 16 bars
250g (2 1/2 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries
zest and juice of 1 orange
60g (1/3 cup) soft brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick 1-2 tbsp water
Rinse cranberries and put in a saucepan with the remaining the ingredients.
Simmer gently until cranberries “pop” and break up, around 5-10 minutes (If using frozen cranberries do not thaw first, and they may take longer to cook).
Stir well and remove from the heat. Allow to cool.
You can make this in advance, as the sauce will keep for a few weeks covered in the fridge. Or simply allow to cool while making the base.
Crumb base and top
175g (1 3/4 cup) unsalted butter
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 pinch salt 50g (1/2 cup) sliced almonds, divided
Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F)
Line base and sides of 24cm (9 1/2 inch) square tin with parchment paper or foil (equivalent size oblong tin or high sided baking sheet is fine as you will be cutting this into squares).
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.
This recipe was featured in the launch issue of Mr Fox Magazine, the Best of all Things Boy