… Different and So Delicious!
When I came up with the idea for these bars, I had fully intended for them to be a gluten-free, dairy-free dessert bar. As the recipe development progressed, I found the flavors moving them away from the dessert category. They just weren’t really sweet enough to be a dessert. I thought maybe they were more of a side dish, though they weren’t really fitting there either. Continuing on with the ingredients development, then assembling them, and baking them, I kept pondering what exactly these bars would be perfect for – besides just deliciously enjoying them. Could they be a breakfast bar? They do offer a sizable amount of vitamins and nutrients, with the vitamin-A and potassium-rich sweet potatoes and the good protein by way of almond flour, and let’s not forget to mention the high fiber from the oats. Still, I wasn’t satisfied with the side-dish placement either.
These Apricot Sweet Potato Bars are only mildly sweet. Natural to assume they have an autumn dish flavor profile, with the sweet potatoes, this however is not the case. By adding finely diced dried apricots soaked in Grand Marnier, a bold tartness developed. To soften the impact, I incorporated some pure maple syrup, which nicely rounded out the sharp flavors and brought everything together. Then for some brightness, I used my microplane to grate in some fresh, citrus-y, orange zest. Wow, what lively flavors were now in the filling!
In the crumble mixture for the crust and topping, I incorporated a little coconut flour. Lacking a great deal of experience cooking with coconut flour, I wasn’t sure how much of a coconut-flavor would result. By mixing it with the almond flour, oats and pecans, I found it really complemented the crumble by giving just a bit of sweetness, without creating an overshadowing or pronounced coconut flavor. Enveloping the filling with the crumble crust and topping created a “bar” likened to nothing I’ve ever made or tasted. Uniquely Yum!
My DF Better-Half came up with the perfect time for serving these treats. The flavors and style of food took him to a Springtime brunch. Yes! Perhaps an Easter brunch, baby shower, or a bridal shower brunch. Bright and bold flavors, wrapped in a casual presentation. I love this idea! It immediately struck me as the perfect way to share these treats. Further, we found them to be most flavorful and palate-pleasing when served at room temperature. When cold, the flavors seemed to not shine through as well. Served warm from the oven, the texture was a bit too soft for my liking. Then we decided to give it a finishing touch … a small puddle of Grand Marnier-spiked pure maple syrup (his idea again – he’s full of them!). Wow – this took the bars right over the top – in presentation and flavor!
These gluten-free, dairy-free Apricot Sweet Potato Bars, served whenever and however you decide to share them, or even if you just want to treat yourself and enjoy them with a cup of coffee (as I’ve done many times during this recipe development), are different and so delicious! I hope you try them:D
Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Apricot Sweet Potato Bars
Cooking time: about 20 – 25 minutes, ovens vary
Oven temp: 400ºF
Cooling time: 2 hours
Makes: 12 to 15 bars
1/2 cup (about 20 halves) dried apricots, finely chopped
2 teaspoons Grand Marnier
2 1/2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potato, nothing added – I peeled, chunked, boiled then mashed mine
1/3 cup pure maple syrup – depending on how sweet you like it
1 Tablespoon freshly grated orange zest, plus a little more for garnish
Crumble Crust and Topping Ingredients:
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats – I use Bob’s Red Mill Rolled Oats
1/4 cup flax meal – I use King Arthur Flour Whole Flax Meal
1 cup slightly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup almond flour* – I use Honeyville Blanched Almond Flour
1/2 cup superfine brown rice flour*
1/4 cup coconut flour*
3/4 cup dairy-free margarine – I use Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread – soy free
1/3 cup pecans, finely chopped
*You can substitute Bette’s Gourmet Four Flour Blend in place of the almond flour, brown rice flour, and coconut flour. Or for any one of them, as desired. 1/4 cup equals 30g Bette’s.
P.S. There is intentionally no guar gum or xantan gum included in this recipe. It is not needed.
Grand Marnier Maple Syrup “Puddle” Ingredients:
1/3 cup pure maple syrup, slightly warmed
1 1/4 teaspoons Grand Marnier
Preheat oven to 425ºF (you’ll reduce heat to 400ºF when you begin baking the bars).
Coat a 7×11 baking dish with a light coat of cooking spray (Pam – Original is gluten-free), or with a little margarine.
Soak apricots in 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier in a small bowl or cup. Stir and set aside.
Combine oats, flax meal, brown sugar, and flours in a bowl. Stir well.
Cut margarine into the oat mixture, using a pastry cutter or fingertips, until mixture is crumbly and margarine is pea-size.
Scoop about 2/3 mixture into prepared baking dish. Pat down firmly to make smooth. I find the back of a spatula makes a good press for this.
Bake at 425ºF, on middle oven rack, for 5-6 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside on a cooling rack while you continue with next step.
Add pecans to remaining 1/3 mixture and stir in well. Set aside.
Pulse mashed sweet potato, soaked apricots, 1/3 cup maple syrup, and 1 Tablespoon orange zest in a food processor, just until well mixed and apricots are very tiny.
Spread sweet potato mixture over baked crust, making an even layer completely to the edges.
Sprinkle remaining crumble topping over filling. Press down gently with back of spatula to make an even layer and ensure all the topping sticks together.
Reduce oven temp to 400ºF and bake bars for about 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Coconut flour browns easily, so keep an eye on it (I was caught by surprise).
Cool bars in pan on cooling rack about 2 hours, or until room temperature. Can be served warm, but cutting bars that will keep their shape is much easier when completely cooled.
Combine “puddle” ingredients in a small jar or pitcher and set aside.
Serve by pouring a small amount of slightly warmed Grand Marnier Maple Syrup onto serving plate. Lay a bar just overlapping the syrup for a pretty presentation … it also allows the bar to begin soaking up the liquid … oh my yum!
Store remaining bars in a resealable container in the fridge. To “reheat”, either allow bars to rest at room temp about 30 minutes or place in microwave for about 10 seconds.
Safe food is a journey … Thrive!™