These bars were a special treat for my husband! When it comes right down to it, he’s a meat & potatoes kind of guy! Thankfully he’s also very tolerant and encouraging of my culinary adventures…and let’s just say some of them will never see the pages of my blog! 😉 And thankfully he’s also not extremely picky, so for the most part he eats what I prepare without much comment one way or another. Unless I try serving peas…then I get some grumbling from him! So while it’s nice that he doesn’t complain, it’s also a little frustrating that he’s rarely complimentary as well. But the good thing about that is that when he does ooh and ahh, and takes a second serving, and actually comments on how good something I’ve made is…then I know I’ve hit the nail on the head! And that’s what happened when he tried these bars! Of course he had a big ol’ scoop (or 3) of ice cream with his! If you’re an ice cream eater he highly recommends you do the same! Personally I opt for enjoying one of these with a cup of coffee or tea, and I highly recommend that as well!
I used to make a bar similar to this a few years ago, but there’s absolutely no way that old recipe was going to work into my CEBH Lifestyle! It had butter, flour, sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, brown sugar, even toffee bits in the recipe. Sooo…wow….that’s a hard recipe to try to “healthify”! I kept the oats from the original recipe, but pretty much everything else went out the window and I started from scratch! I managed to nix the flour, refined sugar, and dairy, yet still turn out what we thought was a super delicious dessert that satisfied our sweet tooth without feeling like we’d sacrificed anything – most certainly not flavor! Because these are not only chewy, but also gooey and delicious!!!
Yet here’s the thing…if you take out butter, and sweetened condensed milk, and sugar…something’s gotta go back in! The crust is made from oats, cashew butter, eggs, maple syrup, applesauce, coconut oil, vanilla, and a little baking soda. The gooey chocolate layer is made from more of our cashew cream, cacao, vanilla, maple syrup, and the secret ingredient – espresso powder – which really serves only to enhance the chocolate flavor of these bars!
Tip: Making your own nut butter is a simple process, though you’ll need a high speed blender like a Vitamix or a Ninja, and a fair amount of patience! For cashew butter: Put 2 cups of lightly roasted (unsalted if you can get them) cashews in the blender and turn it on low until the nuts are ground into very small pieces, then gradually increase the speed, stopping to scrape the sides as necessary. Continue blending on medium high to high speed about 10 more minutes, until nut butter is smooth and creamy. It may be rather melty and hot by the time this is achieved. At this point you’ll want to taste it and add salt as desired. Transfer it to a jar and store it in the fridge. Voila! You’ve just made homemade cashew butter! And the best part is – you can do this with almonds or peanuts too!
For the chewy oat layer I ground 1 cup of the oats in the blender until it resembled coarse flour, then combined it with all the rest of the oat layer ingredients. Press 2/3 of the mixture into a greased 11″ x 7″ baking dish, reserving the other 1/3 for the topping. The bottom layer of the oat bars then gets baked 10 minutes while preparing the chocolate layer.
The cashew cream in this recipe is prepared slightly differently than in our previous recipes. For these bars, the cashew cream must be smooth and creamy, but not too thin. To start, I added the organic cacao, vanilla, espresso powder, and maple syrup to the soaked and drained cashews. Then I blended it all on high, adding water 1 tbsp at a time until the chocolate filling is smooth and creamy and has a consistency similar to pudding.
Once the bottom oat layer has baked 10 minutes, remove it from the oven, carefully spread on the chocolate cashew cream layer, evenly distribute the remaining 1/3 oat mixture over the chocolate layer, and return it to the oven to bake an additional 20-25 minutes.
When the Chewy Chocolate Oat Bars come out of the oven they’ll look wonderful, and they’ll smell wonderful, and you’ll have to force yourself to be patient once again while they cool. First cool them to room temperature, then store them in the refrigerator. Ours have been in the fridge for a week and they’re still good as the day they were baked!
- 4 cups whole oats, divided
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 cup cashew butter ~ substitute peanut or almond butter if preferred
- 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/3 cup coconut oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tsp baking sofa
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water at least 2-3 hours, then drained
- 1/3 cup cacao powder
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp instant espresso powder
- Water as needed
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Lightly grease an 11" x 7" baking dish and set aside.
- Grind 1 cup of oats in blender until they resemble coarse flour.
- In a large mixing bowl add ground oats, whole oats, eggs, cashew butter, applesauce, 1/3 cup maple syrup, coconut oil, 1 tsp vanilla, baking soda, and 1/4 tsp salt, and stir to combine.
- Press 2/3 of the oat mixture into prepared baking dish and set the remaining 1/3 aside.
- Place baking dish in preheated oven and bake 10 minutes, then remove from the oven.
- Meanwhile, in a blender, combine raw cashews, cacao, 1/3 cup maple syrup, 1 tsp vanilla, and espresso powder.
- Blend on high, stopping to scrape the sides as needed, and adding water 1 tbsp at a time until the chocolate mixture resembles the consistency of pudding.
- Carefully spread chocolate over pre-baked oat layer, then evenly distribute remaining 1/3 of oat mixture over the chocolate layer and return to the oven.
- Bake an additional 20-25 minutes, watching closely the last 5 minutes, until the top is lightly browned.
- Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before cutting into 24 pieces.
- Store covered, in refrigerator. Bars stay fresh for at least 7 days.