killer crunch bars
In church-lady cookbooks and at Midwestern potlucks everywhere, there is a marvelous thing simply called: a bar. A cookie, in square form, comprised of some combination of cereal, peanut butter, and chocolate, commonly called a "Special K Bar" or "Scotcharoo," and notoriously famous amongst kids and adults alike. What follows is my take on this bar, a slightly more virtuous version of the ones I grew up eating (goodbye high fructose corn syrup!). Its takes me back to those late summer nights of bruised knees, bare feet, dad at the grill, my brothers and I running wild and getting eaten by mosquitos for as long as we could stand it.
• 1 cup shredded coconut
• 1/2 cup gluten-free rolled oats
• 1.5 cups gluten-free sprouted rice cereal
• 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp. salted, natural smooth peanut butter
• 1/2 cup dark amber honey
• 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
• 1 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips
• 1/4 cup salted or honey-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8x8" square baking pan, and line with strips or parchment or aluminum foil. Set aside.
Spread the coconut and oats on a large rimmed baking sheet, and toast in the oven, stirring frequently, until golden brown and fragrant, 5-10 minutes. Watch carefully as the coconut can burn easily. Reserve 2 tbsp. of this mixture, and toss the rest in a large bowl with the sprouted rice cereal. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, stir together 1/2 cup of the peanut butter and the honey over medium heat until smooth and melted. Increase heat slightly and continue to cook until mixture comes to a gentle boil. Stirring frequently, cook the mixture 20–30 seconds more, then immediately pour over the reserved cereal mixture. Combine mixture with a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon until all cereal/coconut is thoroughly coated, then spread the mixture into your prepared baking pan, packing it down with the back of your spatula/spoon. Using greased hands or the bottom of a wide drinking glass, continue to pack the mixture very tightly into the pan. This will ensure the bars hold together when you cut them. Pop the pan in the refrigerator while you make your chocolate topping.
In another small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the chocolate and remaining 1 tbsp. of peanut butter, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth. Remove the bars from the fridge, and quickly pour over the chocolate mixture, smoothing it out with a small spatula or the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the reserved toasted oat/coconut mixture over the top, along with the chopped peanuts. Return the pan to the refrigerator, and chill until fully set, about an hour.
Remove the bars from the pan using the parchment flaps as handles, then cut into squares using a very sharp or serrated knife. Store at room temperature for a few days, or refrigerate for longer (if they last).