Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Apricot Bars With a Kick

Since my last post was on the indulgent side (as in, two sticks of butter and three kinds of sugar indulgent), today I thought I'd bring you these apricot-ginger bars. They're still sweet, but not too terribly bad for you, as they incorporate whole wheat flour and oats in both crust and topping, and don't contain very much butter at all. The kick in the topping comes from candied ginger (isn't ginger supposed to be healthy?), and most of the sweetness in the bars comes from the apricot jam. I used regular store-brand preserves, but you could try using an all-natural kind if you want: it might have a looser texture, but should still work (just please don't use the "diabetic" kinds that are sweetened with artificial sweetener. They taste funky.).

These are a homey, and homely, treat - the topping is very crumbly and the ginger bits tend to fall off, so they may not be best for a dinner party. They do, however, make a perfect afternoon snack with a cup of tea, or heck, even for breakfast. The ginger gives them quite a kick that might be just the thing to wake you up in the morning - if it's too much spice for you, however, feel free to dial back the amount a bit.

Spicy Apricot-Ginger Bars
Adapted from Cooking Light

These make kind of a mess, as the topping has a tendency to get everywhere, but they have a great, nutty taste from the whole wheat flour and oats. That said, you could use all all-purpose flour if you don't have whole wheat. The original recipe called for an 8-inch square pan, but I used one a few inches larger so that the bars were thinner and made more servings. If you go this route, just be warned they take much less time to bake - keep an eye on them. I have used both apricot and peach jam to good effect, and any jam or preserve that would compliment the spicy hit of ginger would work well - I'm thinking I might try blueberry next time, or possibly plum or fig.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
5 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup finely chopped candied ginger
10 oz apricot jam

Preheat oven to 375F. Whisk together flours, oats, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Combine sugar and butter in medium bowl and beat until smooth. Add flour mixture and stir until crumbly and blended. remove 3/4 cup dough to another small bowl and toss with ginger. Set aside. Press remaining dough into a greased 8-inch square baking pan [I think mine was slightly larger, which wasn't a problem - just be sure to watch them when baking as the bars will be thinner and so will cook more quickly]; spread evenly with jam. Sprinkle ginger mixture over. Bake for 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown; cool completely on wire rack. Makes 16 to 24 bars, depending on how small you cut them.

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