September 16, 2013 Leave your thoughts
These bars—surprisingly—go out to my middle school cafeteria. Yes, that’s right: once upon a time, I condoned cafeteria food as not just edible…but delicious, too. What?!
When I was in elementary school, the food was AWFUL, andit seemed to get worse with each passing year. The hot dogs often had a greenish tint…and bounced. The egg patties were a mysterious shade of yellow and more closely resembled playdough than food. My friends and I used to joke that the chicken and tuna a la king was regurgitated sustenance sent via underground tunnel from the nurse’s office. To encourage us to buy the particularly disgusting meal options, the cafeteria managers would pair them with a—gasp—cookie. For a cookie, you can suffer through anything, even if it’s been pre-digested…well, if you’re nine years old.
Buying food from the middle school cafeteria was like going from Walmart to Abercrombie. There was pizza daily, endless snack options, and…a smoothie machine. But, best of all, there were cookies and bars…and I must admit, they were pretty darn tasty. One of my favorites was the strawberry bar, with a slightly crunchy crumb topping, sweet filling, and chewy base. I only had it once or twice, but it left a memory…a memory that I had to recreate.
You’ve gotta try these. No one will ever guess they’re gluten-free…and vegan, too! They’re also pretty easy to make, if you have all of the ingredients.
First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 inch pan with coconut oil.
In the bowl of a food processor, blend together 2 cups of blanched almond flour, 1/3 cup of raw coconut nectar OR maple syrup, 2 tablespoons of softened or melted coconut oil, 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract, and a generous pinch of salt. Process until homogeneous, about 1 to 2 minutes; your dough should be sticky to the touch but easy to form into a ball. If it feels too dry, add in up to 1 tablespoon more of coconut oil; if it feels too wet, add in up to 1/4 cup more of almond flour.
Press the dough into the prepared pan and spread out with your hands.
Bake until golden brown on top and firm to the touch, about 13 to 15 minutes. It’s important that it’s firm, but not over-baked: it’s going back in that oven! Place the crust the freezer to chill out while you make the raspberry filling.
In a small saucepan, bring 1/3 cup of raw coconut nectar OR maple syrup to a slight boil over medium heat. Once bubbling, turn the heat down slightly and stir in 1 10-ounce bag of frozen raspberries. Let cook over medium-low heat until the fruit is mostly broken down, about 10 minutes, whisking occasionally to help break it down.
Remove the raspberry mixture from the heat and stir in 3 tablespoons of chia seeds, ground up in a coffee grinder or food processor. DON’T leave these out—they’re what gels up the filling!
Let the raspberry-chia mixture sit for 10 minutes and stir occasionally. Watch as it becomes just like jam!
While the mixture gels up, make the crumb topping. In the bowl of a food processor, combine 2 cups of whole, raw walnuts (sprouted or unsprouted—I personally prefer the taste and texture of sprouted), 1 cup of blanched almond slivers, 2-3 tablespoons of raw coconut nectar OR maple syrup (depending on how sweet you want it), 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, and a generous pinch of salt. Pulse until coarsely ground, about 30 to 45 seconds. The topping should almost hold together at the touch but not be the texture of a dough.
Remove the base from the freezer, and spread the raspberry jam all over, leaving no spot untouched. Using your hands, crumble the topping into the pan, making sure to cover most of the jam. (You should have plenty to go around!)
Bake until fragrant and golden brown on top, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely to room temperature before slicing and serving; it’ll fall apart if you slice it when it’s hot.
What’s a dessert from your childhood that you’ve never ceased to love? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know!