Flutters and pokes

Since we last spoke, I've had my nose broken and smooshed back together again, spent a few days alone by a lake fattening up my manuscript, baked a mediocre chocolate cake (three times, just to be sure), read this book, and this one, and learned that the flutters and pokes rocking my belly as I type this are girl flutters and pokes. Mia thinks we should name her “Pizza.”

Pizza Schleifer. It has a nice ring.

So that’s what’s new on my end. That, and many thousands of words and a growing pile of recipes for the book. THE BOOK. A.k.a., the reason I’ve been scarce around here. There’s more to say about that – the book, not the scarceness – but the new year is almost upon us, and there’s still champagne and panforte to acquire. I don’t want to keep you.

I do, however, want to pass along a recipe, something for the next week or so when the merriment dies down and we go back to eating like the normal, monogastric bipeds we are. We’ll need something sweet and snack-ish while the cookies beat their retreat. Granola bars, say. These.

I wasn’t planning on sharing, since Molly posted about them only a year and a half ago, but they've become such a staple around here in the six weeks since I first made them that I feel compelled to deposit them in The Permanent Collection. Plus, I've played fast and loose enough with the ingredients to make an easy recipe even easier. That’s always something to write home about.

Off we go, then, into these final hours and the brand new ones that follow. Wishing you and yours the very best. See you in 2014.

(Vegan, if you want) Cherry Pecan Chocolate Granola Bars
Adapted from Orangette

This recipe produces a chewy bar, sweet enough that I’ve served them to lunch guests as dessert (and no one complained; in fact, they asked to take some home) and un-sweet enough that the words “nutritious breakfast” can reasonably apply. Aside from dialing back the sugar a bit, I’ve made one important change in the way that I deal with the oats. Instead of using a combination of finely ground oats and quick-cooking oats, I use quick-cooking oats and whole rolled oats. It saves me the step of hauling out the food processor and grinding the oats, and I prefer the heartier texture.

These bars are delicious with butter, but for vegan friends I’ve made them several times with coconut oil and they’re terrific that way, too. Feel free to swap it in.

1½ cups (143 grams) quick-cooking oats
½ cup (48 grams) rolled oats
¼ cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1 cup (110 grams) pecan halves
½ cup (25 grams) unsweetened coconut chips
½ cup (85 grams) bittersweet chocolate chips
¼ cup (40 grams) dried cherries
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (85 grams) peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted
6 tablespoons (120 grams) honey
1 tablespoon water

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan and line with parchment paper. You’ll want to cut the paper long enough to have some overhang on two of the sides. Lightly grease the paper.

In a large bowl, stir together the oats, sugar, pecans, coconut, chocolate chips, cherries, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, vanilla extract, melted butter or coconut oil, honey, and water. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir well. Transfer to the prepared pan, cover loosely with a sheet of plastic wrap (to prevent the mixture from sticking to your fingers), and press firmly into the pan. Remove the plastic wrap and discard.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown. Don’t worry that the mixture feels soft; it will harden as it cools. Set the pan on a rack and let cool for 15 minutes, then run a sharp knife along the edges of the pan. Cool completely, still in the pan, then cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Lift onto a cutting board, and cut into squares with a sharp knife.

Store in an airtight container between sheets of wax paper.