Great Lakes cherry bars

December 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

In fairness the last post might have painted the Midwest in a less-than-flattering light. However, I must admit I do love how well winter is done here. I mean, we get snow, regularly and reliably, and it’s fluffy and gorgeous. While I’m sure Hawaii is lovely and all, really, winter is more my speed. Besides, here we have all the agricultural bounty of the farmland, which naturally includes cherries. My mom spent some of her childhood in Michigan and she always talks about how great the cherries are, so now that I’m in a more charitable mood towards the region in general (it helps that the snowplow brigade came out in full force and my car isn’t frozen into the world’s largest icecube), here’s my tribute to one of the mitten state’s great agricultural triumphs.

In case you were wondering, the capital of Michigan is Lansing, but I figured Great Lakes seemed more evocative of, well, the essence of Michigan or something like that. So basically, these are the same base as the Honolulu date bars that probably aren’t from Honolulu, but with a sour/sweet cherry filling made from dried cherries. And yes, you do get bonus points if you find Michigan cherries. I suppose you could get away with some Washington or Oregon cherries, but we’ll keep that a secret from the Michiganders.

Great Lakes cherry bars

Makes 16 bars


  • Two cups water
  • Two cups dried cherries
  • One teaspoon vanilla extract
  • A small pinch of salt
  • One and a half cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup rolled quick oats
  • One cup packed light brown sugar
  • One and a half teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup neutral-tasting vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In a wide skillet, combine water and dried cherries and bring to a gentle simmer over high heat. Continue cooking for about ten minutes total. You may need to turn down the heat gradually and stir occasionally to keep the mixture from boiling and/or burning.

3. Meanwhile, combine oats, oil, sugar, flour, the 1/2 teaspoon salt, and baking soda in a separate bowl. Stir until all ingredients are combined. Firmly press two-thirds of the crumble mixture into an 8 by 8 inch nonstick pan.

4. Once the ten minutes are done, remove the pan of cherries from the heat. Let cool for a few minutes, and then stir in the vanilla extract and a small pinch of salt. In a separate bowl, pour in about 2/3 of the cherry mixture. With a handheld immersion blender, blend the 2/3 cherry mixture to a chunky consistency. Pour the blended mixture back in with the cherries and liquid and stir together to create a thicker consistency and texture for the cherry filling.

5. With a spatula or the back of a spoon, spread the recombined cherry mixture over the oat-crumble base. Then sprinkle over the remaining oat crumble mixture, but don’t press on it. Bake for about forty to forty-five minutes, or until the edges are crispy-looking and the crumble topping is fragrant and golden. I recommend letting the bars cool completely before cutting as otherwise they tend to fall apart, but they’re really good warm too, so take your pick.

Note: Cherry bars can be kept in an airtight container for up to one week.


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