No-Bake Almond Butter Bars with Dark Chocolate
I learned a new word last week: procrastibaking. According to an article in the New York Times, it’s “the practice of baking something completely unnecessary, with the intention of avoiding real work.”
I can’t remember the last time a newspaper article rang so familiar. I’ve found my people!
Apparently we procrastibakers are scattered all over the globe. We collectively find our way to the kitchen instead of digging into a work project, paying bills, or filling out school forms. Unlike some procrastibakers, who choose elaborate, multi-day projects, I gravitate towards cookies and bars that can be knocked out in no time. Usually there’s chocolate involved. And lately, these Dark Chocolate No-Bake Almond Butter Bars have been my procrastibaking recipe of choice.
The bars are pulled from the pages of a dandy of a cookbook called Alternative Baker. I became enamored of its author, Alanna Taylor-Tobin, when we collaborated on the photos for my next cookbook. She’s a trained pastry chef, food stylist, and crack food photographer. She’s also gluten-sensitive, which is where the “Alternative” in Alternative Baker comes into play. The recipes rely on flours from a range of gluten-free grains, which lend enormous interest and flavor. I like that she manages to pull off her desserts and breads without requiring guar or xantham gum — common in gluten-free baking, but not alway well-tolerated or easy to source .
The recipe has been a HUGE hit in our house. I’ve made them five times, experimenting with various nut and seed butters, playing around with ratios, and swapping in some honey when I didn’t have enough maple syrup. The results have been consistently excellent. It’s a perfect treat to deliver to a friend, bring for a school party, or stow in the fridge for when your sweet tooth strikes. The bars are small, rich, and a little bit decadent. Still, each one comes in at just 2 teaspoons or so of added sugar, while being full of fiber, protein, vitamin E, and heart healthy fats. More importantly, they’re an excellent way to procrastibake!
No-Bake Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Bars
These no-bake bars fall into the category of healthier treat. They're darn delicious thanks to a combination of almond butter, maple syrup, and dark chocolate, but get a nourishing punch from rolled oats, almonds, hemp seeds, and cacao nibs. Serve them for an after school snack with a glass of milk or wait to enjoy them for a post-dinner dessert. Swap in peanut for almond butter and the bars will remind you of peanut butter cups...only better.
- 1 cup smooth, unsweetened, natural almond butter (stirred and at room temperature)
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 1/3 cup dried tart cherries (or dried cranberries)
- 1/4 cup hulled hemp seeds
- 1/4 cup cacao nibs
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin coconut oil
- 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
- cacao nibs, hemp seeds, and flaky sea salt (optional), for sprinkling
In a large bowl, whisk together the almond butter, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Set aside.
Place the oats in a large skillet set over medium-low heat, and toast, stirring regularly, for 4 minutes. Push the oats to the side a bit to make room for the almonds. Add to the pan and toast until lightly browned and fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring oats and almonds occasionally so they don't burn.
Add the oats and almonds to the almond butter mixture, along with the dried cherries, hemp seeds, and cacao nibs. Use a rubber spatula to stir everything together until combined.
Line an 8-inch square pan with a sling of parchment paper that overhangs on the sides. Scrape the oat mixture into the pan and press it down firmly and evenly with slightly damp hands until you have a flat surface of even thickness.
To make the topping, combine the coconut oil and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Melt on high in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring after each one until completely melted and smooth. Pour the melted chocolate over the oat bars. Spread with a rubber spatula to cover the surface of the bars. Sprinkle the top with cacao nibs, hemp seeds, and flaky salt.
Place the pan of oat bars in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. When you’re ready to cut, loosen the edges of the bars with the tip of a knife before pulling the bars out by the edges of the parchment sling. Cut into 20 bars. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, where they will keep for a week or longer.
Recipe lightly adapted and printed with permission from Alanna Taylor-Tobin