Roasted Cherry and Dark Chocolate Oat Bars / by Chelsea Zwieg

So I have a folder on my computer for my blog photos and it has subfolders for each post, listed alphabetically (#organized. except not really though). Well, today I exported my photos, logged onto my blog to upload the photos and started to scroll through the folders when I discovered just how many start with the word roasted. Roasted cauliflower, roasted strawberry bread, roasted citrus salad ....it just keeps going. And yet I can't stop. 

And the reason is that very few things are not improved by a little time in a blazing hot oven. Roasting turns vegetables into crispy, charred better versions of themselves and fruit into soft, juicy, jam like perfection.  I am all for eating the best of any summer produce fresh out of the bag, no oven involved. But a blog suggesting that you put cherries in a bowl, sit outside and eat them might not be exactly what you're looking for. Sometimes there are just too many cherries and you're pit spitting has been perfected, in which case I suggest you crank up that oven and roast them. Yes, even in the heat of summer. 

Roasting the cherries before adding them to the bars gives them a little jump start on breaking down into a deeply cherry flavored, less gloopy version of pie filling. This is added to the bar base, topped with dark chocolate chunks and finished with an oaty, buttery crumble. The base of these bars was actually (heavily) adapted from a recipe for caramelitas that I have had brewing in the back of my blog-idea-mind for months. Caramelitas use the same method of an oat crust, filling and a crumble topping except that the filling is chocolate and super gooey caramel. But then summer happened and how could I pass up beautiful bags of cherries and beeline it to the candy aisle for caramels? If anything, pictures of cherries make me so much happier than pictures of caramel wrappers. And so a completely summerized, not at all caramely version of caramelitas was born. 

Although, I have to say, the main reason I wanted to make caramelitas in the first place was because I love the name. Don't you just want to say it over and over again, while doing a little salsa dancing emoji lady move? 💃🏻 💃🏻 💃  Calling these Cherrylitas seemed a little confusing and  Caramelitas Minus The Caramel But With Cherries was not quite as catchy, and so I had to ditch my new favorite word. But in my head I'm going to call them Cherrylitas and keep emoji lady dancing all over my kitchen. 

Roasted Cherry and Dark Chocolate Oat Bars

Makes 1 8x8 inch pan 

Note: These need to be kept in the refrigerator but are much better to eat when they are reheated. Popping them in the microwave for a few seconds does the trick. And adding some vanilla ice cream, if we're being real. 

| Ingredients | 

  • 2 1/2 cups cherries, sliced (that measurement is after they are sliced, it will be more when before pitting/slicing) 
  • 2 tsp. sugar (you can add more if you like a sweeter filling or to compensate for not so flavorful cherries) 
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla 
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda 
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chunks

| Instructions

Preheat oven to 400. Arrange cherries in a single later on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar and toss to coat cherries. Bake 10-15 minutes until cherries are soft and have begun to release their juices. Place roasted cherries in a bowl and mash with a fork (or your hands, if you are lazy like me) until they are broken down but still have some sizable chunks of fruit. After the cherries have been removed, reduce oven temp to 350. 

Meanwhile, combine melted butter, brown sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Add flour, baking soda, salt and 1 cup oats and stir until fully incorporated. 

Line an 8x8 in pan with foil or parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides. Press half of the crust mixture into the bottom of the pan in an even layer. Bake 10 minutes, until just beginning to brown around the edges. 

Remove crust form the oven and top with the roasted cherries. Add the chocolate chunks on top of the cherries. Mix the remaining crust with an additional 1/2 cup of oats. Sprinkle on top of the cherry filling. Bake 18-20 minutes until the crumble is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Let cool completely in pan before cutting. Store in the refrigerator.