OH MY GOODNESS. These bars. No seriously, theeeeeseeeee bars.
I found myself baking these after an intense craving for fig newtons. While I realize that Fig Newtons contains actual figs, I couldn’t find any at the store so I settled with dates, another favorite dried fruit. Good old dates — cheap, addicting and always there to save the day. My favorite way to enjoy dates lately has been by spreading almond or peanut butter all over them. Can you say YUMMMMM?
Anyway, moving away from my date obsession and onto these ridiculously delicious ooey-gooey bars that I created in partnership with Peapod. If you remember, I’ve been developing fun recipes for them over the past few months for their new site FromthePod.com. It’s been wonderful to encourage others to step into the kitchen and cook creatively or bake something comforting.
This time I wanted to create something unique and different that you can bring to your friends and family with delightful surprise. That would leave them guessing what were in the bars, but also leave them begging for seconds. These will live up to your expectations and then some. PROMISE.
Another perk to these bars? They’re gluten free and vegan-friendly. I win at desserts for everyone. WINK.
In all seriousness, my favorite part of these bars is how wholesome they are. Now I realize they contain sugar (organic!), but the ingredients themselves are whole grain, gluten free, full of healthy fats and packed with nutrition. So you can feel somewhat good about indulging in these this winter.
I mean, have you ever seen anything more beautiful? Now just image how they TASTE. Or better yet, let me do my best at describing the most fabulous flavor combination.
The base and top of the bars are made up of oat flour, oats, organic brown sugar, coconut oil, vanilla and a little salt. The bars are wonderfully crunchy on the bottom for a solid base that doesn’t fall apart. Just made sure you pack and press the bar base into the bottom of the pan tightly; this will ensure that the crust bakes evenly.
Next up is the filling. Made up of dates and espresso powder (or instant coffee!); you’ll make a spread in your food processor. After you spread it all over the bars, you’ll sprinkle the top with dark chocolate chunks and cover again with some of the oat mixture. That’s it!
The result is a gluten free oat bar with a thick, gooey chocolate and date filling. They’re rich, scrumptious and everything you want this time of year.
I hope you LOVE these as much as I did. Be sure to tag #ambitiouskitchen on Instagram if you make these!
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Ooey-Gooey Dark Chocolate Espresso Date Oat Bars
Incredible vegan and gluten free date oat bars packed with a gooey date, espresso and dark chocolate filling. With a crunchy bottom, unique flavors, and wholesome ingredients, these make a scrumptious treat or snack.
- For the filling:
- 1 1/2 cups packed pitted Medjool dates
- 1 1/2 cup hot water
- 2 teaspoons espresso powder or instant coffee granules (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For the base:
- 1 1/2 cups gluten free oat flour
- 1 cup gluten free oats
- 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup melted coconut oil (or sub melted vegan butter or regular butter)
- 3 oz your favorite dark chocolate bar (at least 70%), coarsely chopped (dairy free/vegan, if desired) OR sub 1/2 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 8x8 inch pan with parchment paper so that you're able to easily remove the bars after. This is important! Grease the parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray.
Prepare the filling first: Add dates, hot water, and espresso powder to a high-powered blender and blend until mostly smooth, about 2 minutes. It's okay if there are a few chunky pieces of dates. Allow date mixture to cool and thicken up a bit for 5 minutes while you make the base.
To make the oat base and crumble: in a large bowl, combine oat flour, oats, brown sugar baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir in melted coconut oil until the mixture is crumbly. Measure out 1 cup of the mixture and set aside in a small bowl (this will be for the topping). Press the remaining mixture into the prepared pan; you'll need to press hard to ensure that all of the mixture will stick together well.
Gently spread date mixture evenly on top of the base crust. Sprinkle on chopped dark chocolate (or chocolate chips) then sprinkle the reserved oat topping over the top.
Bake bars for 30-35 minutes or until top is set and slightly golden brown. If you'd like you can also sprinkle the chocolate with a tiny bit of coarse sea salt for a salty and sweet combo. Transfer to wire rack to cool for at least an hour to help set the base, then remove from pan to cool completely. Makes 16 bars. Bars are best kept covered in the fridge and are delicious when served chilled as well as at room temperature.
To make completely vegan: Make sure you use a vegan chocolate bar. Theo makes a nice 85% vegan chocolate bar.
To make gluten free: Use gluten free oat flour and gluten free oats.
If you'd like you can make these bars without the espresso powder, they will still be delicious and even kid-friendly!
Recipe by: Monique Volz // Ambitious Kitchen
Photography by: Sarah Fennel // Broma Bakery