Thursday, April 24, 2014

Kale Crispy Treats

This one recipe made the purchase of Camilla V. Saulsbury's energy bar cookbook Power Hungry worth every penny, though the recipe failed for me every time I tried to make it! Despite the failures, the flavor was so good and so surprising and more-ish that I kept trying. These bars are like a health nut's fantasy of a Rice Krispy Treat: the kale and puffed rice add crunch, while the nut butter and honey coating and dried cherries add chew. Every person in the family adores these, from the toddler upward and when I say the words "kale bars" to my first-grader she shouts hooray. Who knows (or cares) what her classmates think!
I admit to feeling relieved when my friend Stacey had the same problems with the recipe I did. The problem is the sweetener and nut butter ratio. Following Saulsbury's recipe religiously using both DIY glucose syrup and brown rice syrup, the mixture wasn't fluid enough and so the end result was a bar with lots of funky-tasting crumbly bits and a few nicely-coated chewy/crispy bits that gave me the patience to keep trying.
In the end, I looked to my own recipe, Safe-for-School Granola Bars, for the answer. I knew that the sweetener/seed butter ratio worked there, so I applied a similar ratio to Saulsbury's recipe. VoilĂ ! I could tell just by the texture of the liquid mixture in the pan that I had a winner. I've made them twice now and foresee many years of tucking them into school and work lunches.
I like to use roasted almond butter, though raw would work just fine. The kind I use has a bit of salt that goes nicely with the other ingredients. I use dried (sweetened) tart cherries instead of the cranberries in the original recipe and I increased the amount of them, but other than that I basically follow the original.
If you're a kale-hater, these may not convert you, but if you already like kale chips, I think you will go crazy for this sweet-savory, chewy-crispy, delectable bar. If you wanted to mess with perfection, some unsweetened shredded coconut would be a nice addition.

INGREDIENTS
1 large bunch kale, stems and center ribs removed, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 to 1 TBSP vegetable oil
1 c. quick-cooking oats
1/3 c. pumpkin seeds
3 TBSP sesame seeds
1 c. unsweetened brown rice puffs
1/2 c. dried tart cherries, coarsely chopped
1/4 c. brown rice syrup
3 TBSP honey
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 c. almond butter
1 TBSP vegetable or coconut oil

DIRECTIONS

  1. Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment, foil or waxed paper
  2. Preheat oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with Silpat or parchment. You really need to use two baking sheets to make sure that all the kale pieces cook evenly
  3. After washing and tearing the kale, dry it very well in a spinner or with kitchen towels
  4. Place in a large bowl and drizzle on the oil. I like to use the lesser amount. Rub the oil into the kale. You could do this directly on the trays but I find that awkward. Wash and dry the bowl to use later
  5. Distribute the kale leaves evenly over the two trays and make sure that none overlap
  6. Bake for 12-17 minutes or until the kale is uniformly crispy
  7. Remove from oven and slide the Silpat or parchment off the trays to cool (you need the trays for the next step). Leave the oven on
  8. While the kale cools, spread the oats, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds on one of the trays or do as I do and double the oats and seeds, storing half in an air-tight container to speed up the bar-making process the next time
  9. Toast the oats and seeds for 5-8 minutes or until lightly golden
  10. Using the large bowl from earlier, mix the oats and seeds with the rice puffs and cherries. Crumble in the cooled kale and give it a stir. If you run across any pieces that don't easily crumble to dust, set them aside. If you put them in your bar they'll go from addictively odd to downright nasty. I usually get at least 98% good crumbles
  11. In a small saucepan, combine the brown rice syrup, honey and salt. Heat on medium-low until is reaches a boil
  12. Add the nut butter and oil and whisk, making the mixture as smooth as you can. It should drizzle nicely off of your whisk or wooden spoon
  13. Pour the warm mixture over the dry ingredients and begin to mix with a wooden spoon. After a minute or two, I always abandon the spoon and use my hands to get everything really well blended. Be careful of the heat of the liquid mixture, but I find it's not a problem if I mix with a spoon first
  14. Transfer the mix to the square pan and press down very firmly.
  15. Refrigerate at least one hour and then cut into 1/2 to 1 inch square bars. If you don't gobble them up in ten minutes, store the leftovers in an air-tight container

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