Those who saw the SF Chronicle's food section yesterday probably noticed the review of former Google Chef Charlie Ayers' new cookbook, Food 2.0. Now, let's just say, it's kind of a weird book. The organization is all willy-nilly, the recipes don't have any headnotes (wuh?), and the juxtaposition of Ayers' commitment to, say, both whole milk and wheatgrass is tough to reconcile. That said, the photos are quite lovely and Ayers comes off as a real chef, someone so enthusiastic and happily unpolished that his creative juices kind of sploosh all over the place. And that's refreshing. It also gives the reader unspoken license to take liberties as well.
And that's what I've done. I started with his recipe for Coconut Oatmeal Bars with Chocolate Chips and healthified it, but only to an extent. I swapped in white whole wheat flour for the refined and reduced the amount of butter by just a smidge. I also browned the butter to give it a nutty, caramelly flavor and took out the coconut, just this once. Finally, to make the bars mid-morning-friendly, I exchanged the chocolate chips for a bevy of mixed nuts. Now before you grab the mouse and hot-foot it over to another blog, keep in mind that I'm a big fan of the chocolate chip. We're tight. We're buds. But I can't very well nibble a chocolate chippy thing at 10am because who are we kidding -- at that point it's a brownie, or a blondie if you're being technical.
So here I offer you my version of Ayers' original, perfect for a morning binge.
Recipe for Brown Butter Nut Bars, version 3.0
I used equal parts hazelnuts, almonds, and pistachios, but you can choose your favorite combination of nuts. Just be sure to toast them.
[Makes 9 normal-sized squares or 16 minis]
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup oats
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 cup mixed nuts (be creative), definitely toasted but also, if desired, coarsely chopped
1-1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon each vanilla and almond extracts
Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8"-square baking pan with parchment and coat with nonstick spray. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, brown the butter. To the uninitiated, this means melt it over medium-low heat. Then continue cooking, stirring occasionally with a heatproof rubber spatula, until it turns nut-colored and smells nice and toasty. Do not let it burn. Cool.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in oats, brown sugar, and nuts.
In a small bowl, whisk together cooled butter, egg, oil, and extracts. Pour into sifted mixture and stir well until all flour particles are absorbed.
Transfer to the baking pan and smooth the top. Bake 23 minutes or thereabouts, until golden brown, firm, and a happy nut-smell pervades the entirety of your house/apartment/neighborhood. Let cool. Cut into squares.