There's a time and a place for a granola bar or energy bar, and then there's an altogether different time for a decadent, crumbly, fruit-filled bar with a silky layer of cream cheese. These bars are for that occasion — and for all the brunches and spring parties that may be on your calendar in the coming months. Or for no occasion at all, other than breaking up the inevitable breakfast rut that strikes us all at some point.
This time of year, I start to catch a glimpse of what's to come: Color! Fresh fruit other than citrus! So I welcome any excuse to bake with fresh berries. These bars are really a combination of many things I love in the morning: toothsome oats, toasty almonds, sweet berries, and tart cream cheese.
They're crumbly and slightly buttery, but not at all too sweet, so they definitely qualify as breakfast fare as far as I'm concerned. Wonderful with coffee or tea, they double as a nice afternoon snack, too.
From start to finish you're looking at about 45 minutes, so consider these a make-ahead breakfast to assemble on the weekend or a particularly luxurious weekday morning. They're really simple and difficult to flub. The quick, whole-grain crust doubles as the crumble topping and the strawberries aren't cooked down in advance, so the effort level is quite low. You can prep it all in advance the night before and get them in the oven right when you wake up in the morning — warm, fruity bars await.
Strawberry Cheesecake Breakfast Bars
Makes 9 to 12 bars
- For the crust:
1 3/4 cups
(175g) rolled oats (certified gluten-free, if needed)
1 3/4 cups
(160g) sliced raw almonds
cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, plus more for pan
pure maple syrup
- For the filling:
(roughly 3/4 pound) ripe strawberries, hulled and cut into small pieces
1 heaping tablespoon
cream cheese, softened to room temperature
plain Greek yogurt
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8x8-inch square pan.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse 1 cup of the oats until they’re just beginning to break down, about 30 seconds. Add 1 cup of the almonds and continue pulsing for 45 to 60 seconds, or until both have combined into a fragrant, sandy, coarse-looking meal. Add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and pulse to incorporate. Finally, add the butter and process until it’s broken up into little pea-sized pieces. Add the maple syrup and applesauce and pulse to moisten. The mixture should be clumping together at this point. Pour into large mixing bowl and fold in remaining 3/4 cup oats and 3/4 cup sliced almonds. Set aside.
In a separate mixing bowl, toss together the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch. In another small bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and yogurt until creamy.
Take about 2/3 of the oat mixture and press gently into prepared pan. Make sure the bottom of the pan is completely covered. Dollop the cream cheese layer on top of the crust, then spread it as best you can. You don’t want to disrupt the crust layer so I usually use my hands to quickly shimmy the cream cheese around – it doesn’t need to be a smooth layer, as it will melt into place in the oven; even just dolloping the cream cheese over the oats will work fine. Spread the strawberries evenly on top of the cream cheese layer and scatter the remaining oat mixture across the top of the bars in small chunks, aiming to cover as much of the strawberries as possible.
Bake for 30 minutes, then remove from oven. Give the bars a gentle press with the back of a spatula to help set ingredients. Place back in the oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until golden on top. Let cool completely before slicing.
While I do think these bars are the very best the day they’re made, you may certainly cover and refrigerate them for up to 3 days – I think they’re really best at room temperature, so let them warm a bit after taking them straight from the refrigerator.