As if we didn’t have plenty of reasons to love First Lady Michelle Obama already, here’s one more: she’s upgrading the quality and downsizing the quantity of desserts served at the White House. An article in the New York Times about White House pastry chef Bill Yosses explains her approach. Yosses recalls, “Mrs. Obama stipulated that desserts would be a rarity, not routine, at family meals, and that portions would be scaled down.” Of course Yosses, a veteran of high-end New York kitchens, still turns out elegant desserts for all sorts of occasions, but the consciousness has changed.
One thing Mrs. Obama requested was something healthier than the previous administration’s bottomless cookie tray. After a lot of experimentation, he came up with “White House Fruit and Oatmeal Bars,” a recipe also included in a Times’ article. Try Yosses’ recipe if you like, but after the jump you’ll find my version, upgraded a bit, I think, by eliminating the brown sugar and changing out honey for rice syrup.
Later note: a couple of people have commented that there’s something wrong with the recipe in the Times. I see no mention or correction on the Time’s site. I suggest trying my recipe. It’s delicious, but keep the bars in the fridge until you want to eat them, as they tend to soften up at room temperature. I’m still working on this recipe, so let me know how it works for you. Gary
Further notes: Click here for a nutritional analysis of the White House recipe in a New York Times blog (hint: it’s pretty high in calories).
Click here for my recipe for energy bars, which has gotten good reviews from those who’ve tried it.
WHITE HOUSE FRUIT AND OATMEAL BARS
While retaining nearly all the same ingredients as the White House recipe, I’ve simplified it by substituting granola for the rolled oats (use a relatively plain, naturally sweetened granola).The most difficult thing about this recipe may be waiting until it is thoroughly cool before cutting and eating.
Preheat oven to 350º F. Prepare an 8 or 9-inch square cake pan by lining it with aluminum foil or parchment paper and brushing that thoroughly with oil.
2 cups plain, naturally-sweetened granola
1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1 1/4 cups toasted pumpkin seeds (reserve 1/4 cup for garnishing the top)
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds (optional)
1 1/2 cups dried fruit of your choice, preferably at least 3 kinds (I used raisins, dates and apricots)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup canola or similar oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup rice syrup
pinch of salt
Chop the dried fruit coarsely in a food processor, add a tablespoon of water if the fruit seems too dry–you want the fruit to be sticky.
Combine the seeds and granola in a mixing bowl with the dried fruit and cinnamon.
Meanwhile, combine the maple syrup, rice syrup, oil and salt in a sauce pan, place on high heat and bring just to a boil. Immediately pour this into the bowl with the other ingredients, stir well.
When well mixed, pour this into the prepared pan, dampen your fingers and press the bar mixture evenly and firmly into place (sprinkle the reserved pumpkin seeds and push into place while smoothing out this mixture). Bake in a 350º F oven 20 minutes or until the edges appear ever so slightly caramelized.
Cool to room temperature then chill in the fridge at least one hour before attempting to cut with a sharp, serrated knife. Keep in fridge until serving (if allowed to get too warm, the bars may become soft). Yields 1 1/2 dozen bars.