Gooey Oat Bars
Updated: Nov 15, 2022
What is it about kids and their inability to plan ahead, especially when it comes to your time? Why do they come to you on Thursday night as everyone is getting ready for bed, and "remind" you (read: tell you for the first time) that there is a bake sale tomorrow and they DEFINITELY need to take something. Or that they signed up to bring treats for class. Sure, you can stop by the grocery or order something for delivery. I'm not a store-bought sort of person, though; I always try to make something from scratch because I can't help myself and because I believe homemade tastes better. These are the perfect bars for that situation. Easy to put together, quasi-healthy with all that oatmeal (it IS still a dessert bar), and I promise, they will love every bite.
Don't let them get you down with their last minute request; instead, wow them with this great option. Or round them up and let them help you make these easy bars.
We really like this with 1/2 dried cherries, 1/2 dark chocolate in the filling. You can definitely go all chocolate, or sub in any other tangy dried fruit like dried apricot or dried cranberries.
Gooey Oat Bars
Yield: 20 - 26 (or more!) squares (depending on how small or large you cut them)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/3 granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips chocolate chips
3/4 cup dried sour cherries
flaky salt, for sprinkling, optional
Prepare your pan: Heat the oven to 350ºF. Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper (if using a cake pan, hang the parchment over the sides so the bars are easier to remove). Lightly coat the sides with nonstick spray.
Make the crust: Combine the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Cut the butter into chunks, and add it together with the cream cheese to the bowl, then run the machine until the mixture forms large clumps—it will feel like you're over-working it, but trust me, just keep running it; it might take another 30 seconds for it to come together, but it will. Transfer the dough clumps to the prepared baking pan and press them evenly across the bottom. Bake for 20 minutes, until very pale golden.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Melt your butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue to cook the butter, swirling frequently, until golden brown bits form at the bottom, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugars and salt. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes, then whisk in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla, and stir in the oats, coconut, and chocolate and fruit. Pour over the par-baked crust, gently spreading evenly. Don't press too hard or you'll break the soft crust. If using, sprinkle with flaky salt.
Bake the bars: Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, until the top is firm and golden and the bars are set or, at most, barely jiggle if shimmied. The bars are much easier to cut cleanly from the fridge, but they are gooiest when warm.
Do ahead: Store in the fridge for many days.