Imitation as flattery

The Wild Oat is a bakery/store/café in the Glebe area of Ottawa that caters to the granola types with its vegetarian menu items and liberal (sometimes excessive) use of grains and seeds. While I’m not vegetarian, far from hippy and have been known to use plastic bags at the grocery store (sue me), I still appreciate what The Wild Oat has to offer from time to time.

Of particular interest to me is the Berry Oat Bar which, after careful examination and much taste-testing, I have come to conclude consists of a fairly thick cranberry and blueberry filling sandwiched between two layers of oat crumbs. A perfect blend of sweet and tart.

I have the good fortune of having Fridays off of work during the summer, tomorrow being my last. A favourite summer Friday routine of mine involves a leisurely walk to The Wild Oat, where I snag a Berry Oat Bar to go, before trundling on down Bank Street to the Starbucks for a drink and a seat. An obscene amount of pocket change later, I’m happily settled in a cushy armchair by the window, snacking and reading my latest book club pick or a suitably star-studded magazine (Vanity Fair, anyone?).

On one such occasion in recent history, after silently grumbling to myself about the cost of this ritual, it donned on me: I could make this!

So, just in time for the last summer Friday, here is my first attempt at replicating the Berry Oat Bar (with an almond twist). While the end product was reasonably tasty, it was a bit more berry crisp than berry bar (although much more interested in being a bar after it was cooled and refrigerated).

Berry Bar as Crisp

3/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ground almond
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and grease an 8” square pan.

In a medium bowl, mix together oats, flour, ground almond, brown sugar and baking soda. Cut chilled butter into cubes and add it to the dry ingredients. Rub the mixture between your fingertips until it resembles coarse crumbs. Lightly press half of the mixture into the bottom of the greased pan.

~ 2 cups berries (I used blueberries with a handful of raspberries this time)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons water

In a small saucepan, dissolve the cornstarch in 1 tablespoon of water. Add the remaining water and sugar, and stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the cloudy mixture begins to thicken and turn transparent.

At this point, add the berries, reduce heat slightly, and stir for approximately 3 minutes until the sauce has completely thickened. Do not heat until the berries burst (if you are using blueberries or cranberries, for example). Remove from heat.

Pour the berry filling over the crumbs. Sprinkle the remaining half of the crumbs on top and bake for 25-30 minutes. The berry filling should bubble up the sides of the pan slightly, but the crumbs on top should not be dry.

Remove from oven and either eat immediately with ice cream as a crisp or chill and eat later as a bar.

Casual Baker Notes for Next Time:
More dry ingredients – ~1/4 cup of oats or flour – in the crumb mixture.
A jolt of lemon (zest and juice) to the berry filling to give it some zing.