Oatmeal Butterscotch Bars

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Oatmeal Butterscotch Bars

These bars came about in the same way most of my edible creations do- I have this thing in my refrigerator/ cupboard that needs to be used, and I have no plan for it. I buy thing at the store in fits of inspiration, bring them home and then never use for one reason or another. Too lazy, plans change, I loose the original inspiration, etc.

In this case , it was hazelnut almond milk coffee creamer.  I bought it back when I was making iced coffee in the summer and taking it to work because I didn’t have time for my But, that job ended, my schedule changed, and I didn’t need iced coffee for work mornings because I had time to have my morning tea before heading off to school. So this almond milk creamer has been sitting and sitting around in the fridge, and now that the semester is over and I have time to worry about these things, I set out to make use of it. But what? I have struggled  for days and days about what to do with it.

I have had butterscotch on the mind a lot lately for reasons unknown to myself, so when I came across a butterscotch sauce recipe that used heavy cream, a light bulb went on in my head. I know almond milk creamer is not really close to being the same, but perhaps it could work?

So I made the sauce, subbing almond milk creamer for heavy cream, and earth balance for butter. I’m sure a butterscotch purist would say that these changes means that the end result here was something other than butterscotch, but it was close enough for me and it tasted damn good.

I now have butterscotch sauce. Great!  Except, what do I do with it now? I don’t usually have ice cream around, so I can use it on that. Nor am I especially interested in spooning it over anything. I really just want to put it in something, bake it, and be done with it. Google “butterscotch sauce bars.” There’s not really many any such actual recipes, especially ones that might work as vegan recipes and with the quantity of sauce I now have sitting in a bowl, waiting.

Eventually, I find one that seems  like it would reasonable work, veganized, and the sauce recipes are similar enough that they should even be almost the same quantities.

Per my inability to prepare a recipe as written, I made a few changes, and I am very, very happy with the results. For me, the key addition to these bars is the nutmeg- it adds a nutty, lively, intriguing depth and sophistication to the bars. I made one recipe without, and while the ones without were excellent as well, the ones with the nutmeg are by far my prefered version.

One would expect these bars to be quite sweet with sugar everywhere in the recipes, but I did not find that to be the case, I think all oats (3 cups!) really soak up all the sweetness. Plus, all the oats make you feel like you are eating something healthy and also makes this a perfectly acceptable breakfast food.(said the girl who will literally eat ice cream for breakfast, so….)

I baked these quite long as I wanted the edges/bottom to achieve a nice, crispy caramelization. Between the crispy caramelized areas, the chewy oats, and the metly  little pockets of  buttery sauce, there is a great amount of texture in each bite of these bars that make them truly delightful to snack on, and so addictive.

Butterscotch Oat Bars

Sauce recipe adapted from Vegetarian Baker

Bar recipe adapted from Kinsey Cooks

Butterscotch Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter (earth balance)
  • 4 tablespoons almond milk creamer (i used hazelnut flavored)
  • additional 1/4 cup almond milk creamer
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon butter extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • optional – a bit of cornstarch dissolved in water.

Method

  1.  Add the butter, salt and sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat on medium heat.
  2. When the butter is melted, whisk in 4 tablespoons creamer. Bring to a foamy boil. Lightly boil (there should be some bubbling) for 5 minutes, whisking occasionally, until mixture deepens in color. It should thicken a bit, but also not a lot.
  3. Remove from heat, and whisk in the  remaining 1/4 cup creamer, followed by the vanilla and butter extracts. Whisk.
  4. Whisk in dissolved cornstarch if using.
  5. Let cool for 15 minutes before using.

Bars

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon  salt
  • ¾ cup  butter, softened
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon butter extract (yes!!)
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease a 13″ x 9″ baking pan.
  2.  Whisk together the oats, flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl .
  3. In a different bowl, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar with a hand mixer on medium/high speed until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add in the  vanilla and butter extracts, mix in well.
  5. While running the mixer on low speed, slowly pour in the butterscotch sauce. Fully mix in.
  6. Slowly add the oat mixture to the  bowl and mix on low speed until just combined.
  7. Using a wooden spoon, mix the dough to ensure that any loose flour is incorporated into the mixture.
  8. Scoop mixture into baking pan with wooden spoon, smoothing out at much as possible.
  9. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

 Let cool for 5 minutes,then take a tiny corner piece. Bars are equally amazing cooled. 

C,

      j

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Beer Bread

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Beer Bread

 

 

I made bread!

I know some of you reading this are doubtful right now,  nose scrunched up, eyebrows knitted  together in consideration,staring sightlessly past your screen. You are pondering

“Did she really?, she doesn’t even own a full set of measuring cups and spoons.  Even when she can find the few she does own, she has such an aversion to measuring and following recipes that no measuring actually occurs. How is it possible she could undertake such an exact science and have it actually turn out edibly? Just last night she carbonized the bread she was toasting to the pan.”

Several weeks ago, (a lifetime ago, before finals and Christmas), I had this amazing bread from a local bakery, Wildflour Bakery, called Farmhouse Cracked Wheat.  I love all breads. but for years I have been sticking with this ciabatta I get from the grocery store bakery as I know I like it and that it is vegan. Compared to my standby ciabatta, the farmhouse bread was  denser, darker and  sweeter, yet definitely still savory. It was nutty,  only so slightly sour and featured a ever so slight chew. The square loaf, with more than a hint of molasses, was honest, comforting, and inspiring. As I devoured half of the loaf in my first sitting with it, I decided I had to learn to make bread, bread like this.

Nevermind that I rarely undertake baking ventures because some intrinsic  force within my being prevents me from measuring, or that my  m.o. as a chef is taking recipes and drastically altering them to fit my hopes and needs for them. There just isn’t enough safety space for fiddling around with baking, which is why my kitchen endeavors historically have stuck to soups and stews and casserole-style faire. Nevermind that yeast and kneading are the only two things which are guaranteed to cause me to stop me reading a potential recipe. Nevermind all of that. I was going to make bread.

I immediately began researching recipes, and found a lot of potential candidates. I knew from my two previous attempts at baking yeasted breads that the trickiest part of bread for me is kneading the dough enough. If not confident, I was at least ready to try and fail. The problem was,  I was in the last three weeks of my semester and had final projects to begin… and to finish, and the bread was going to have to wait.

Fast-forward to yesterday, and yeah, I still wanted to make bread, but it was 3pm, the sun was setting, I was tired from driving and shopping all day. I wanted bread, but without the delay of rising and the commitment of kneading. Enter… Beer Bread.  Armed with a recipe I was confident in, I just had to decide what beer out of the thousands out there I should put in this bread.  While I am a lifelong Wisconsinite, I (with a few exceptions) do not drink nor enjoy beer. Thus I know very little about beer. I did some quick research and decided that I would try a lager, as it is supposed to be a lighter beer and impart less “beer” taste into the bread.

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Now, what kind of lager? Living in WI, there are plenty of local brewing companies which produce decent beer (as I understand it), so it had to be from WI if at all possible. Not knowing what I would find out there in the wild, I ventured to the store. Not surprisingly, the shelves were dominated by IPAs(truly a gross beverage), but I did manage to find one local lager- New Glarus Two Ladies. New Glarus is a well-known, trusted local brewery and I even kind of like their most popular beer, Spotted Cow.  I read the description on the  Two Ladies bottle. Billed as a “graceful,” “classic country lager,” I had no idea what that actually tastes like, but i also wasn’t overly uncertain about it either, and I confidently brought it home.

The recipe I used, with two slight tweaks, come from here: 40 Aprons. I used whole grain whole wheat flour instead of the white whole wheat flour and replace a half tablespoon of the agave nectar with molasses. The bread turned out beautifully. Fresh out ofthe oven, the crust was crunchy and the bread was dense and moist and tasted like yeasty bread, and not beer. It was so satisfying warm out of the oven with a bit of butter melted on a thick slice.

While the recipe I created does not need to be altered at all, next time I am going to increase the molasses by another half tablespoon and use dark agave just to see what happens. Also, I might increase the baking powder just a bit to see if the bread will rise more/ turn out a bit lighter (I know I could be completely wrong here, but the fun in cooking for me is the experiment, so don’t tell me if I am wrong…).  I also plan on trying out different beer styles, next up is likely a stout or porter.

This morning, as I am writing this, I am enjoying it with a smear of orange marmalade and it is just as tasty. It turned out more on the dense/moist side of non-sweet bread, so if you are looking for a light, airy bread, this is not the recipe you are looking for. A bread like this is perfect for Wisconsin winter and would pair perfectly with a hearty soup/stew. It will taste good with butter, or jam, or a nut butter, or possibly even toasted with marmite. (the loaf didn’t stay around long enough for me to test the marmite.)  Really, it will take well to whatever it is you want to put on your bread, there are many possibilities here.

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Lager Bread

Recipe adapted from 40 Aprons

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 cups whole grain wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • 3½  tablespoons light  agave nectar
  • ½ tablespoon blackstrap molasses
  • One 12-oz bottle of New Glarus Two Women Lager
  • 3 tablespoons Earth Balance, melted
  • oats, enough to sprinkle over loaf

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  2. Lightly spray a 9X5 loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine both flours,  the baking powder, and the salt. Sift well– I used a sifter, but a whisk/fork will suffice as well.
  4.  Pour in beer, agave nectar, and molasses.  Enjoy the wonderment and amusement as the beer reacts to the flour/ baking powder.
  5. Stir until a stiff batter is formed. Take care not to over-mix the dough.
  6. Spoon the dough into the prepared loaf pan, making it as even as possible, or as you desire.
  7. Sprinkle the oats on top of the dough.
  8. Melt the Earth Balance and brush it across the top of  the dough, dotting it over the oats.
  9. Bake for around 40 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Admire yourself and your bread. This is a most satisfying experience. 

C,

      j

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