Friday, June 20, 2008
I'm trying to come to terms with the fact that I like making jam a lot more than I like eating it. (Whereas usually eating the food I make is my favorite part!)
Don’t get me wrong: jam is tasty! But it’s really hard for me to get through more than one jar per year. I don’t eat a lot of toast (even though I adore it; it just doesn’t fill me up for breakfast), and I don’t have a high tolerance for sweet things in the morning anyway. I’ve experimented with eating jam in other ways—for instance, it’s an excellent way to perk up plain yogurt or oatmeal—yet still I’ve got a backlog of perfectly good homemade fruit preserves getting old in my pantry and refrigerator. The main problem is that last winter when I canned a batch of apple butter to give to friends and family for Christmas, at least half a dozen of the jars didn’t seal (I think some of the lids were too old), which meant they weren’t shelf-stable, so I couldn’t mail them or pack them in my suitcase to bring to Minnesota and give away. They were perfectly fine (in fact, the apple butter is darn delicious, if I do say so myself), but they had to be kept in the fridge—and most of them are still there, lurking in the back, six months later. Apple butter is great on toast, but it’s kind of weird stirred into yogurt (there’s a reason you don’t see a lot of commercially made apple yogurt), and now that it’s full summer (100 degrees in Pasadena today!) a bowl of steaming apple-butter oatmeal just doesn’t appeal.
So I was on a mission to find a recipe that would provide a worthy end to my apple butter and any other old jam I might have lying around now or in the future. Because I don’t really want to stop canning jam! It makes me feel all cozy and Little-House-on-the-Prairie-like. But I know that Ma Ingalls would not approve of me wasting perfectly good fresh fruit by canning it, letting it sit on my shelves for a year, and then reluctantly throwing it out for fear of botulism. Appropriately enough, it was The Pioneer Woman who came to my aid with this insanely easy, delicious, versatile recipe for oatmeal-jam bars. Did someone say oatmeal? I love oatmeal!
Don’t mistake these for health food, because they’re totally not; they’re buttery and they’re sweet—in fact, the first time I tasted them they seemed too sweet, and I thought, “Oh, I won’t want to eat very many of these,” and promptly gave a bunch of them away to my coworkers. Then, later in the week, after dinner, I was hankering for a little dessert and I ate a bar and OMG SO GOOD. The flavor was strongly reminiscent of a non-chemical-laden apple NutriGrain bar crossed with an apple crisp or cobbler or crumble; the texture was addictively soft and chewy and slightly sticky. I will definitely be making these again, because I’ve got two more jars of apple butter left in the fridge and maybe even some older jam stashed away in the cupboard. That’s the best thing about this recipe—you can use just about any flavor you want. PW used apricot in the original, I’ve already testified that apple was awesome, and I am just dying to try a berry-flavored version. Folks, I would even—gasp!—buy jam at the store to make this recipe. And if that’s not a glowing recommendation, I don’t know what is.
Oh yeah, and did I mention it’s really, really easy to make? If you don’t believe me, click over to PW’s original writeup, which walks you through step with step-by-step photos.
1½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
1¾ sticks butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
1 10-to-12-ounce jar of fruit jam or preserves, any flavor
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Using an electric mixer, combine all ingredients except jam in a large bowl until completely blended (it should have about the consistency of crumbly cookie dough).
3. Press half of the mixture into a buttered 8- or 9-inch square baking pan. Spread jam evenly over crust. Sprinkle second half of mixture over the top and pat lightly.
4. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until light brown. Let cool completely (this may take several hours), then cut into squares.
Yield: Maybe 24 bars? (I cut mine super-small, about half the size of PW’s)
Time: 1 hour