Vegan Oat Fruit Bars
Gluten-free, refined sugar-free
While I have been sitting at home, recovering from surgery, the only thing that I can really think about is food. Literally I have a list on my phone of all the foods that I want to eat and all the things I want to make. It is getting very long.
Two days ago, I decided that it was time to order some delivery from my favorite place: Flour Bakery. When I am not feeling great, I tend to eat more things I should not (makes no sense I know) and that means gluten. Flour makes this raspberry bar that I have loved for about 8 years. It is buttery, sweet and tart. It is perfect. No matter how I feel afterward, I enjoy it while I am eating it.
So, lightbulb, I should make one that doesn’t have the gluten, refined sugar or butter.
I happen to be a sucker for anything that involves oats, so why not add some oats to it.
I think that oats and oat flour make a gluten-free baked good taste almost the same as one with wheat flour. Oats just have that deeper flavor than other gluten-free grains like sorghum or brown rice. The whole rolled oats in the dough give it more texture to the crust and crumble on top, not to mention some additionally fiber. If you aren’t a fan of whole oats, shredded unsweetened coconut would be delicious too, but you may need to add an additional 1/3 cup of oat flour.
Butter? What butter?
While I do love a buttery shortbread, I have been avoiding things that are laden in butter. I limit my dairy to frozen yogurt and regular yogurt. There are a lot of vegan butters out there (some I love), but I decided to use just virgin coconut oil. It is one ingredient versus the sometimes-many in vegan butters and helps the keep the bars moist.
Now, I used virgin coconut oil on purpose. I wanted the coconut flavor. It plays so well with the citrus and the caramel-like flavor of the coconut sugar. You can certainly use refined if that is what you have.
I am generally a sucker for citrus of any kind. I love the acidity, tang and floral notes of all citruses. I especially love them in pie or shortbread dough. It helps to lighten the dough on the palate and provide some nuance of flavor. For this dough, I chose orange for the sweet, floral flavor and the lemon for a lighter, brighter note.
Not to mention, the orange and lemon zests help to provide some deeper fruit flavor to the jam. Some jams are not as fruity? I have no idea if that makes sense, but the citrus zest wakes up that jam.
Fruit is my favorite. My sister literally hates fruit and I am obsessed with it. Since the ostomy, I can’t eat as much raw fruit as I used to (literally ate 3 apples a day plus more fruit) so I try to find new ways to work it in. So that is why I like to add additional fruit to these bars, not just the jam on its own.
There is nothing better in the summer than stone fruit: peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums and more. I love the combination of nectarines, especially the slightly sour ones, with strawberries. When baking with stone fruit, it is important to peel them. It seems tedious, but that skin can discolor the surrounding dough and the fruit itself. If the nectarine is still firm, it is easy to peel it with a good vegetable peeler. If it is softer, it will be a little trickier.
If you aren’t a fan of the stone fruit, try adding whole blueberries or blackberries.
If you are finished mixing in the coconut oil and the dough is crumbly and not quite holding together, add an additional tablespoon or coconut oil. If you dough is too wet and doesn’t hold its shape (ie turns into a blob), add a tablespoon of oat flour at a time, until the dough comes together and holds it shape.
1 cup gluten-free oat flour
1 cup gluten-free rolled oats
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp flax meal
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp orange zest
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
4oz (about 4 heaped tablespoons) solid coconut oil
1 1/2 cups strawberry jam
1 cup peeled, chopped nectarines
In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, flax meal, baking powder, salt, coconut sugar and citrus zests. Whisk together so that everything is combined.
Add the solid coconut oil and vanilla extract to the dry mix. With you hands, work the coconut oil into the flour mixture until a dough forms (everything should hold its shape when you squeeze the dough). Cover and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350F and line a standard loaf pan with parchment paper. Take half the dough, press it into the bottom of the loaf pan. Make sure to get it in all the corners and try to make it as even as possible.
Spread the jam on top of the base. Top with the nectarines. Sprinkle the remainder of the dough over the top of the jam and nectarines. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over the top.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top starts to turn golden brown. Let cool completely before slicing. These are perfect as they are; a breakfast treat or top with some nice cream for dessert.
Store in the fridge in a closed container for 1 week.