I consider myself a lucky girl for many reasons, one of them being that I have so many way cool colleagues in the food writing world. Like Robin Asbell. Robin has been putting the “yuummm” into veggie and whole grain based cooking for several years now, with her New Vegetarian, Big Vegan and New Whole Grains Cookbooks. Now, she's gracing us with Sweet and Easy Vegan: Treats Made with Whole Grains and All Natural Sweeteners.
When Robin asked me to be part of her virtual potluck, I had a hard time choosing from the list of dishes. Mocha Scones with Cacao Nibs? Yum. PB&J Crisp? Sweet Potato Coconut Cupcakes? All good. I, though, decided to bring Orange and Dried Plum Bars to the party. Orange and plum has always been a favorite pairing of mine, and with a walnut streusel topping? Done.
Not only have Robin and Chronicle given me permission to share the recipe here with you, they're also giving you the chance to win your very own copy of the book (trust me, whether you're vegan or not, this would be a good thing).
Unlike many of my fellow potluck pals (who are more confident bakers than I am), I opted to cook the recipe exactly as is* out of the book for two reasons: one, because I tend to get into BIG trouble when I mess with any baking recipe and, two, because I was curious about the vegan ingredients. Nothing in the ingredient list was new to me, but some–palm sugar, coconut oil, soy milk, agave syrup–were, for me, novel ingredients to be baking with.
I'm not the biggest baker to begin with, but part of the reason is because I don't feel great about having goodies that are basically processed flour and sugar in my fridge, no matter the guise. Which is why I was so excited to delve into Robin's book. I can get behind bars that are mostly fruit, whole grains and nuts. I love that I'm adding not only to my sweet-leaning repertoire, but also to my ‘nourishing baking' skill set.
Oh, before I forget … to enter to win a book of your own, just leave a comment below with a way to get in touch. I'll pick a winner this Friday (October 26th). In the meantime, check out the rest of the virtual potluck dishes here.
Dried Plum Filling
1 pound pitted dried plums
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup agave syrup
3 tablespoons orange liqueur*
5 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup Sucanat or granular palm sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons coconut oil, chilled
3 tablespoons soy milk
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup Sucanat or granular palm sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted, plus more as needed
To make the plum filling: In a small saucepan, combine the dried plums, water, agave syrup, and orange liqueur. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat as much as possible, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir until thoroughly combined.
Preheat the oven to 350. Oil a 9-inch square baking pan.
To make the crust: In a medium bowl, combine the pastry flour, Sucanat, and salt and stir until well mixed. Grate the chilled coconut oil into the flour mixture, then toss until the bits of coconut oil are evenly coated. Mix gently with your fingers, squeezing to break up the bits and working quickly so the warmth from your hands doesn't melt the coconut oil. Add the soy milk and stir until just combined. Press a bit of the mixture in your hand to see if it holds together; if it's crumbly, stir in a bit more soy milk.
Scrape the dough into the prepared pan and press it in an even layer. Bake for 5 minutes. Let cool. Leave the oven on.
Meanwhile, prepare the streusel: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, walnuts, Sucanat, and salt and stir until well mixed. Add the coconut oil and stir until thoroughly combined. If any loose flour remains, stir in a bit more oil.
Spread the plum filling over the crust in an even layer. Scatter the streusel evenly over the top and press to flatten slightly. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the streusel is golden brown and feels firm to the touch.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Cut 4 by 4, to make 16 squares. Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, the bars will keep for about 1 week.
* Full disclosure … I did change one thing. I thought I had Cointreau, but didn't, So I used amaretto instead.