Monday, April 6, 2015

Banana Walnut Oatmeal Bars with Salted Caramel

Banana Walnut Oatmeal Bars with Salted Caramel
recipe adapted from Top with Cinnamon

1/2 cup (6 oz / 170g) honey
1/2 cup (4 oz / 110g) unsalted butter
1/8 cup (1 oz / 27.5g) light brown sugar* reduced
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp (100ml) mashed ripe banana (about 1 banana, mashed roughly)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups (10 oz / 280g) quick-cooking oats
1/3 cup (1.5 oz / 45g) chopped walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup (4 tbsp) desiccated coconut, toasted
1/3 cup cacao nibs

For the salted caramel:
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp (100 ml) dark light brown sugar
1/2 cup (125 ml) heavy cream / double cream
1/4 tsp fleur de sel kosher salt
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Decoration: chopped toasted walnuts, toasted desiccated coconut, chocolate chips chopped toasted almonds

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 10″ x 7″ or 9″ square tin with baking paper*
2. Melt butter in a medium-large sauce pan.
3. Stir in sugar and honey and cook for 5 minutes over a medium-low heat, while constantly stirring.
4. Add in mashed banana and cook for a further 2 minutes.
5. Take off heat. Stir in oats, vanilla and optional extras (if you’re adding them in).
6. Pour mixture into lined tray, then spread and flatten it out with your hands*
7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown on top. Leave it in the pan and let it cool on a wire rack.

For the salted caramel:
1. In a heavy based saucepan, stir together brown sugar, cream and salt over a low heat until sugar has dissolved completely.
2. Turn the heat up to medium-high, bringing the mixture to a boil.
3. Let it simmer while you stir constantly with a spatula, scraping the sides and edges of the pan, for 5-7 minutes, until the mixture has thickened slightly.
4. Take off heat and add butter and vanilla. Stir until the butter has melted in.
5. Pour caramel over baked base and spread so it covers the entire surface*
6. Sprinkle on any desired toppings then refrigerate until caramel is firm.
7. Cut into bars/ squares and serve.

*I baked this in a 9x9 square pan and it worked fine.
*Note to self: make sure to gently (or maybe even firmly) press on oatmeal base before baking to get a more compact layer next time. Lightly pressed and bar was loose and crumbly. Caramel mixture slightly seeped through bars.
*Tip: tilt pan from side to side to evenly spread caramel over bars. I didn't allow the bar to completely cool and some caramel was absorbed by the bar.

These oatmeal bars are tasty! More tasty because I didn't drastically cut down the sugar this time. It's sweet but just right. An indulging yet semi healthy snack (due to the oatmeal and bananas?). The banana flavor really came through. And the addition of cacao nibs again worked well balancing the sweetness and other flavors. The salted caramel could use more salt next time!

When it's fresh out of the oven, the texture was loose and almost falling apart. Once chilled and sat overnight, these bars were excellent. Unfortunately, I was too eager to cut them when they were fresh, so the bars did not have nice edges. But I do like the rustic look of these. And with the chopped walnuts and almonds on top, these little bites were very photogenic and irresistible.

Taste: 4.5 stars out of 5
salted caramel could be saltier to pop out more
Texture:3.5 stars out of 5
press firmly next time and note difference

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