Chocolate Cranberry
(or Apricot) (or Cherry) Bars

This is three recipes in one - what a bargain! These chocolate bars are wonderful with either cranberries, apricots, or cherries. I wasn't that adventurous yet, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if a mixture of all three fruits turns out to be three times a wonderful ... Let me know at!

Ingredients (to make about 15 bars):

for the crust:
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats or quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

for the topping:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped (or apricots) (or cherries)

Tip: For chewier chocolate cranberry (or apricot) (or cherry) bars, reduce the 45-minute baking time by just a few minutes.

Preparation (about 30 minutes plus 10 plus 45 minutes backing time):

1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8-inch square paking pan with foil. Butter the foil.

2. To make the crust, stir together the oats, brown sugar, flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Add teh melted butter and mix until crumbly. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and press firmly into the bottom to form a crust. Bake for 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, to make the topping, combine the butter, chocolate and espresso powder in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat.

4. Combine the eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla and salt in a bowl and whisk until well mixed. Whisk in the chocolate mixture and cranberries (or apricots) (or cherries). ;-)

5. When the crust is ready, pour the filling over the hot crust. Continue to bake until the edges are set but the center is still soft although not liquid, about 45 minutes longer. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack.

6. Using the foil, lift the cooled sheet from the pan and place on a work surface. Peel back the foil sides. Cut into bars 2 1/2 inches by 1 1/2 inches. Remove the bars from the foil and store bars in an air-tight container.

These bars are perfect to take with you on a picnic, hike, or bike tour. Enjoy!