I’ve already written about making savoury biscuits for Eoin to replace expensive shop-bought toddler snacks. Surveying the remnants of the packaged biscuits and bars in the Eoin cupboard in the kitchen, I realised the next obvious step was to come up with some sort of fruit and oatmeal bar, which would be both portable and freezer-friendly, and would enable me to get plenty of vitamins into the little chap as part of his snack. Also, it means I can link to this without it being 100% gratuitous:
I’m going to assume that no rogue sleeper-agents have been activated by this video, though I do apologise for the inevitable earworm: I have been humming the jingle all day. Joss Whedon, you’re a bad, bad man…
Trawling through my growing collection of baby- and toddler-based recipe books, I realised that there were a lot of recipes for cakes and muffins out there, as well as pastry-type biscuits. However, I couldn’t find anything to approximate a firm-yet-squidgy cereal bar. I didn’t want to use an “adult” recipe, as I wanted to steer clear of honey, syrups and processed sugar (Eoin has enough of a sweet tooth without me encouraging him), and I was also keen to keep the texture of the bar manageable for someone who still only has six teeth, none of them molars.
Turning to The Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook, by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett, I found a recipe which looked as if it might be a good starting point (the Baked Oat Cake on p.176, though this is more of a fruity loaf than a chewy bar). Working from this, I messed around with ingredients, quantities and cooking times until I had a bar with which I was pleased. If you really did find that this recipe isn’t sweet enough, you could add a spoonful of honey to the mix, provided you’re baking for a child who is over 1, but I don’t like making things super-sweet for Eoin if it’s not really necessary.
Fruity Oaty Bars
You will need:
- 125g mixed dried fruit (I used 50g raisins, 50g apricots and 25g mango)
- Apple juice
- Ground cinnamon
- 200g oatmeal
- 50g desiccated or shredded coconut
- 1tsp baking powder
- 1 banana, mashed
- 1 small carrot, grated (about 25g in weight)
- Mixed spice
- 1 egg, beaten
- 50-100ml milk
Put the dried fruit in a saucepan, chopping up any large pieces (I cut up my apricots and mango with scissors, but left the raisins alone), and pour over enough apple juice to just cover them. Add a generous pinch of cinnamon, place the pan on the stove, and bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn the heat off, and cover the pan with a close-fitting lid.
Leave the saucepan of fruit and apple juice alone while you get on with the rest of the dish, starting with preheating the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4. Grease a small, sturdy baking tin (I use my shortbread tin, which is about 20cm by 30cm).
Put the oatmeal, coconut and baking powder in a food processor with another good shaking of cinnamon and one of mixed spice. Blitz briefly to mix, and then add the carrot and the banana, blitzing again until you have a reasonably homogenous mixture. Strain the panful of fruit, add to the processor and blitz again (you want any large pieces of fruit to be reasonably well chopped, to avoid any potential choking hazards). Add the egg, blitz again, and then add the milk, little by little, until you have a reasonably moist yet still fairly firm dough. I used about 75ml, but your mileage may, of course, vary: don’t add it all at once, though, as you really don’t want the mixture to be too wet and sloppy.
Turn the dough out into your greased tin and flatten it carefully: it won’t be particularly thick at this stage, but it will rise slightly during the cooking process. Bake until firm to the touch: this took about 25 minutes in my oven. Mark out the pieces in the tin with a dinner knife, but don’t attempt to remove them until they have cooled, or they will fall to pieces.
Eoin fell on these, and ate three large pieces in one go. I have stored some in an airtight box, and the rest are in the freezer, biding their time. They are just sweet enough, and they are full of good things, so I hope they are a fairly virtuous snack for little ones. They certainly seem to be pretty portable, as well as being a handy way to get extra fruit and veg into your child. Hurrah to that, I say.
ETA: These bars freeze well, and I have discovered the best way to thaw them is to pop them in a warm oven (180C/Gas Mark 4) for about ten minutes. You can, of course, just leave them out at room temperature, but the oven method is not only quicker, but also results in a nicer texture.