These Chocolate Chip Cherry Oatmeal Bars are a delicious sweet treat for any occasion. They come together quickly and always bring lots of "wow" reviews!
If you think these Chocolate Chip Cherry Oatmeal Bars look good, just wait till you TASTE them! Scott commented recently, "These just might be one of my favorite desserts, ever!" It's been fun to see a similar reaction with everyone who tries them. They look pretty darn good, but when grownups or kids take the first bite, their eyes always get a little bigger and there's a "Mmmmmmm!" or a "Wow!" or a "Oh my goodness!".
There's a funny story about the evolution of these Chocolate Chip Cherry Oatmeal Bars. You know how they say "Necessity is the mother of invention"? I have my own personal add-on to that old adage. It goes like this; "Laziness can also (accidentally) be the mother of invention". Actually, laziness is exactly how these Chocolate Chip Cherry Oatmeal Bars came into being.
Scott and I were invited to a potluck party one evening a few weeks ago. I was the designated dessert person. My sister, Annie (one of the best cooks ever), had given me a fabulous date bar recipe and I decided the date bars would be a perfect finger-dessert for the party. An easy date filling is sandwiched between the buttery, oatmeal-laden dough. Half is used for the crust and the remainder is crumbled over the top. The date bars are delicious and simply irresistible.
There was a problem, though. When I went to the pantry to pull out the dates, there were none to be found. Raisins, currants, dried pineapple, dried blueberries, figs, dried cherries... everything except dates. Ugh!
I was too lazy to run to the store for dates, so I started thinking up alternatives... Cherries! Hmm, the dried cherries just might work. I decided to give it a go and added mini chocolate chips and a handful of candied pecans with the oatmeal topping. Chocolate and cherries just kind of need each other, right (as in these Chocolate Chip Cherry Oatmeal Cookies)? And candied pecans? They go well with just about anything - in my mind!
What are candied pecans?
The name sounds fancy but it's simply pecans that are tossed in a smidgen of melted butter and a bit of honey before they're added to the top of the bars. They bake up golden and glistening and add a beautiful gourmet touch, along with the mini chocolate chips.
Oh, and speaking of candy, I'm always amazed at the crust on these bars. I guess it's the combination of ingredients that seem to caramelize in the oven and metamorphosize into a crisp, toffee-like edge. I don't generally care for the hard, dry edges on most bars, but these... these are quite different!
Everyone loved the Chocolate Chip Cherry Oatmeal Bars at the potluck, and each time I've made them since, I get the same enthusiastic response. Try them, you will too!
Café Tips for making these Chocolate Chip Cherry Oatmeal Bars
- I like to reserve a handful of the chocolate chips and candied pecans to add during the last 10 minutes of baking. It gives the bars a beautiful, "finished touch". If you're in a hurry the bars will taste just as fantastic if you skip this step, they just won't look quite as pretty.
- Don't skip the parchment paper. It makes it so much easier to get the bars out of the pan. If you don't have parchment paper, foil that's been sprayed with cooking or baking spray will also work.
- This recipe calls for old-fashioned oats (also called rolled oats). Don't try to use quick or instant oats, you won't get the same results.
- Don't overbake these bars. You just want a nice golden brown color. As a rule of thumb, I like to set my timer for 5-8 minutes less than whatever a recipe calls for. I check them at that point and then adjust the time as needed.
- Dried cherries can be expensive. I find a good buy on them at Costco, Aldi andTrader Joes
- The dough for these Chocolate Chip Cherry Oatmeal bars is somewhat sticky. I like to keep a small bowl of flour nearby so I can dip my fingers in it while I'm pressing the crust in. It makes the job much easier!
- I don't use a mixer for these bars, but you certainly can. I use one of these wonderful Danish Whisks. They are wonderful for mixing bread dough, cookie dough, pizza dough - so many things! I love the version shown below and love that it comes in a two-pack. Keep one and give the other to your favorite cooking friend. They'll think fondly of you anytime they mix up a batch of batter or dough!
- For the candied pecans:
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 2 teaspoons honey
- kosher salt a pinch
- For the bars:
- 2 cups dried cherries
- 1 14.4- ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup butter softened
- 1 ⅓ cups brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 ½ cups old fashioned rolled oats
- 1 cup mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375˚F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with baking spray and then line with parchment paper, allowing a few inches of overhang over the long sides of the pan.
For the candied pecans, combine pecans, honey and melted butter in a small bowl. Toss to coat pecans with honey/butter mixture. Set aside.
In a medium-size saucepan, combine dried cherries and sweetened condensed milk. Cook and stir over medium heat just until bubbly. Set aside to cool slightly while preparing the dough.
In a medium-size bowl, combine softened butter, brown sugar and vanilla, mix well.
Add flour, baking soda and salt; mix well. Stir in oats until incorporated. The dough will be thick.
With floured hands, evenly press half of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan. Keep dipping your hands in flour if the dough is sticky.
Drop spoonfuls of the cherry mixture over the prepared crust. Spread evenly over the surface.
Sprinkle evenly with reserved oat mixture, using floured fingers if dough is sticky. Sprinkle half of the chocolate chips and half of the prepared pecans over the topping. Reserve remaining chips and pecans. Bake for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips and pecans. Return to oven for another 10-15 minutes until golden brown and center is not wiggly when pan is gently moved. If top is getting too brown, cover lightly with foil during last 5-10 minutes of baking.