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Recipe: Breakfast meets dessert

  • NEW YORK TIMES
                                Breakfast bars with oats and coconut. Filled with coconut and dried cherries, these breakfast treats from Frenchette Bakery are wholesome enough for breakfast, and sweet enough for dessert.

    NEW YORK TIMES

    Breakfast bars with oats and coconut. Filled with coconut and dried cherries, these breakfast treats from Frenchette Bakery are wholesome enough for breakfast, and sweet enough for dessert.

I’d never object to eating a regular cookie for breakfast. But I’d always thought a breakfast cookie for dessert would make me sad.

Packed with good-for-you ingredients like whole grains, nuts and seeds, a breakfast cookie is meant to be healthful and substantial, something to fill an empty belly, while a dessert is more of a whimsical sweet to tempt a full one.

Then I brought home some breakfast cookies from Frenchette Bakery in New York, and I saw that I was wrong.

Decidedly not dainty, the cookies were saucer- size pucks — craggy with oats and seeds, flecked with coconut and chewy from dried cherries. Their centers were soft and yielding, but the edges crisped delightfully and even became a little buttery, which is all too rare for a confection of this kind.

Satisfying but not heavy, the first one was perfect for breakfast, dunked into my tea. Then I nibbled on another throughout the afternoon, finally finishing it after dinner, when it made a not-too-sweet dessert along the lines of oatmeal raisin cookies, but with a deep almond flavor from the nut butter mixed into the dough.

And if they were a little more wholesome than our usual after-dinner treats, then all the better for me and my family. Keeping a supply around the house seemed like a very smart thing to do.

So, I emailed the bakery for the recipe, which was a collaboration between Michelle Palazzo, the pastry chef, and Peter Edris, the head baker.

It turned out to be both gluten-free and highly adaptable. You can take the basic formula and play with it, substituting raisins for cherries or peanut butter for almond butter, Edris told me.

“It’s a lot like granola,” he said. “Sometimes, in the morning, after the cookies come out of the oven, I’ll crumble them into milk and eat them like cereal.”

Since I adored the cookies as they were, I left the recipe pretty much alone. My only tweak was pressing the dough into a 9-inch square pan to make bars. It was slightly easier than forming individual cookies, and I liked the softer texture they took on. The bars will also stay fresh a little longer, up to a week rather than a few days.

But then again, since they’re just so easy to snack on from breakfast to bedtime, their keeping qualities may be beside the point.

Almond butter and all of the seeds called for in this recipe are available in most supermarkets, or look for them at natural food stores.

BREAKFAST BARS WITH OATS AND COCONUT

  • 3/4 cup smooth almond butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (73 grams) light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing pan
  • 1 large egg, beaten, at room temperature
  • 1 egg white, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or 2 teaspoons extract
  • 1-2/3 cups (146 grams) rolled oats
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup (28 grams) unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/4 cup (37 grams) dried cherries (or another soft, plump dried fruit)
  • 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 2 tablespoons shelled sunflower seeds
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons flaxseeds
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Use a mixer to cream almond butter, granulated and brown sugars, and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add egg, egg white, salt and vanilla; mix until well incorporated, occasionally scraping side and bottom of bowl, about 1 minute longer.

Put oats in a small bowl; sift baking soda over them, and beat into almond butter mixture. With mixer on low, stir in coconut flakes, cherries and seeds until thoroughly mixed. Leave dough in bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface. Refrigerate at least 6 hours and up to 2 days. (This allows the oats to hydrate.)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a metal 9-inch square baking pan with butter and line with parchment, leaving about 2 inches hanging over 2 sides of the pan to use as handles later. Grease parchment paper as well.

Scrape dough into prepared baking pan. Lightly grease a large spatula and firmly press mixture into the pan in an even layer. Bake until surface is light golden brown and firm, 25 to 30 minutes.

Transfer to a rack and allow bars to cool completely in the pan. Then use a butter knife or small offset spatula to cut along inside edges of the pan and release the bars. Using parchment overhang, lift bars out of the pan and place on a cutting board. Cut into 18 bars. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

>> Variation: To make these into cookies rather than bars, drop 1/4-cup measures of the dough onto parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake until golden at the edges, 10 to 15 minutes.

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