Sunday, March 16, 2008

 

On the Open (House) Trail

Treat house hunting like a road trip: bring snacks.

 

By

Adam Ried

 

Looking for a new home can make a soul hungry. I remember Sundays spent driving a carefully plotted, tightly scheduled route from open house to open house, with no time to stop for a bite lest I miss the three-bedroom with skylights that closes at 1:30 p.m. After all, it could be the one!

To keep the energy up, the attitude good, and the schedule brisk, I recommend snacking in the car, road-trip style. A friend swears by melon chunks and orange wedges for car snacks, because, she says, they're like food and drink in one. She's right. But since I'm usually already toting a coffee - especially on Sunday morning - I like to add something a little more substantial, but still easy to handle, to the mobile menu. These recipes are designed to keep you going.

 

APRICOT SESAME OAT BARS

These are hearty like granola bars, but more moist and cakelike, and not at all heavy. They're even better the day after they're baked. Adapted from The Brown Bag Lunch Cookbook by Miriam Jacobs (Globe Pequot Press).

Nonstick cooking spray

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 1/4 cups rolled oats

2 1/2 cups whole dried apricots,

1 cup very roughly chopped and set aside

1/2 cup sesame seeds, toasted

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature,

cut into 8 pieces

3/4 cup light-brown sugar, packed

 

Set the oven rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Cut a piece of foil or parchment as wide as the pan and about 22 inches long and fit it into the sprayed pan, pushing it into the corners and up and over the sides at either end (there will be overhang at both ends). Spray the foil or parchment with additional nonstick cooking spray and set the pan aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon to mix well. In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs with the vanilla and sesame oil until well blended. In a food processor, process the oats and whole apricots until they're finely chopped and well mixed, then transfer the apricot mixture to a large bowl and mix in the sesame seeds. In the food processor, process the butter and brown sugar until uniform, stopping as necessary to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg mixture and process, again scraping bowl as necessary, until well blended, then add the flour mixture in the same manner. Finally, add the apricot-oats mixture and the chopped apricots and pulse to process into a stiff, sticky, uniform dough.

Turn the dough into the baking pan, then wet your hands and gently spread the dough out evenly, taking care not to compress it. Bake until the surface is golden brown and the edges have pulled away from the pan, about 35 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack, cool for about 20 minutes, and use the ends of the foil or parchment as handles to lift the loaf out of the pan and place it on the rack. Cool to room temperature, then peel off and discard the foil or parchment and, using a sharp chef's knife, cut off and discard the very edges of the loaf. Cut the loaf in half lengthwise, then cut each half crosswise into 12 bars. Store bars in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Yield: 24 4 1/2-by-1-inch bars

 

COCOA-CHIPOTLE SPICED PECANS

Dutch process cocoa powder has a deeper flavor than plain cocoa powder, sometimes called "natural" cocoa powder. And this might be hard to believe, but it's worth a trip to a specialty spice store or grocer for the 1/2 teaspoon of smoky, spicy chipotle chili powder called for in this recipe. You might find yourself using it in other recipes, too.

3 cups raw pecan halves

1 1/2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (available at specialty stores),

or more to taste

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

2 Tablespoons water

1 Tablespoon packed light-brown sugar

1 Tablespoon butter

 

Set the oven rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment, spread the pecans in an even layer on it, and toast the nuts until dark and fragrant, about 10 minutes, rotating the pan after 5 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the sugar, cocoa powder, salt, cinnamon, chipotle chili powder, and regular chili powder and set aside. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, bring the water, brown sugar, and butter to a boil, swirling pan to blend. Add the pecans and toss or stir to coat the nuts evenly with the glaze, then cook to evaporate most of the moisture, about 45 seconds. Pour the glazed nuts into the bowl with the spices and toss or stir to coat them evenly. Pour the pecans onto the parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer and cool to room temperature. Store the nuts in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Yield: 3 cups

 

CHOCOLATE PEANUT COCONUT BARS

You can gild the lily by adding a cup of raisins or dried cranberries or cherries along with the chocolate, peanuts, and coconut in these energy-packed bars.

Nonstick cooking spray

2 1/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

12 Tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled

1 1/4 cups light-brown sugar, packed

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup roasted salted peanuts, roughly chopped

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted

 

Set the oven rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Cut a piece of foil or parchment as wide as the pan and about 22 inches long and fit it into the sprayed pan, pushing it into the corners and up and over the sides at either end (there will be overhang at both ends). Spray the foil or parchment with additional nonstick cooking spray and set the pan aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt to blend. In a large bowl, whisk the melted, cooled butter and brown sugar to blend. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk to blend. Add the flour mixture and use a rubber spatula to fold it into the butter and sugar mixture until just combined. Add the chocolate chips, peanuts, and coconut and fold into the dough.

Turn the dough into the baking pan, then wet your hands and gently spread the dough out evenly, taking care not to compress it. Bake until the surface is golden brown and the edges have pulled away from the pan, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack, cool for 20 minutes, and use the ends of the foil or parchment as handles to lift the loaf out of the pan and place it on the rack. Cool to room temperature, then peel off and discard the foil or parchment and, using a sharp chef's knife, cut off and discard the very edges of the loaf. Cut into 2-by-2-inch squares. Store the bars in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Yield: 24 2-by-2-inch bars

 

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