Cherry and Mahlab Oat Bars
Updated: Jun 19
I love making fruit crumb bars in the summer. With all the berries and delicious stone fruits that’s in season.
Although I am using cherries here but this method works with any fruit. In fact use the crumb recipe and make it with a good fruit jam instead.
I love these bars so much. It’s so hard to decide what part of these bars I like most: the buttery nutty oat crumb topping or the sweet fruit cherry filling. Or the fact that they are pretty easy to make. Whatever it is these bars are packed with summer flavors a good way to enjoy the seasons fruit bounty. And hey I finally baked something in my oven it’s been taking a long summer break.
So here you have it Cherry and Mahlep Oat Bars. Before we proceed to the recipe I wanted to share with you some information on Mahlab this incredible fragrant spice. And since it’s made from the pit of a certain cherry species the flavor worked beautifully in these cherry bars.
What is Mahlab:
Or also called Mahleb or Mahalepi is an aromatic spice made from the ground pit of a wild cherry. It’s been used for centuries to flavor Middle Eastern, Arab, Greek, Turkish, and Armenian baked goods and pastries.
Processing: ground mahlab is quite labor-intensive. Each cherry pit is dried and cracked open to get to the tiny seed kernel inside. Then the seed is ground into a powder before it’s used in baking.
Flavor: Mahlab has a flavor similar to cherry, almonds, maybe even marzipan, and gentle floral notes like a rose. If you use too much mahlab it has a bitter after taste. Think of it as nutmeg a little bit goes a long way.
How to grind Mahlab from kernels:
I like to buy Mahlab kernels instead of powder. The taste stays fresh longer. It’s best to grind them yourself with a mortar and pestle. I add a pinch of sugar so they don’t clump together and speed the process.
Use: use Mahlab in baked goods. A good general rule of thumb for every cup of flour I use 1 tsp of ground Mahlab.
Storing: it’s a seed after all so buy it in small quantities and I like storing it in the fridge.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
3 cups cherries, pitted
¼ cup water
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Remove stems and pit cherries using a cherry pitter (trust me it makes the job so much easier)
Add the pitted cherries, honey and water to a saucepan and mix to combine.
Bring the fruit mixture to a boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally until Cherries are tender and cooked through.
Remove compote from heat, stir in the vanilla extract, and allow it to cool. Note: compote will thicken as it sits in the refrigerator.
Store: in a glass jar with a tight lid and refrigerate for up to 10 days.
Compote is delicious on toast, ice cream, stirred in yogurt or oatmeal, and in any fruit desserts like these crumb bars.
Cherry and Mahlab Oat Bars
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1- 2 tsp freshly ground mahlep powder (if you are new to Mahlab start with one tsp taste your crumb and add another one if you wish)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup old-fashioned whole-rolled oats (don’t use quick cook or instant oats they are too fine)
about 12 ounces or 1.5 cups of the cherry compote.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Line an 8-inch square pan or an 8 inch round pan with parchment paper and brush on some butter.
Melt the butter either in the microwave or the stove top.
To the melted butter Add the sugars, vanilla, and mix to Combine.
Add the flour, oats, and gently toss to combine
Once combined the Mixture will resemble coarse crumbs.
Set 1 cup crumb mixture aside to top the bars
Using your fingers press down the remaining crumb mixture to the prepared baking pan. Press until you get a flat even crust.
Evenly spread the cherry compote over the crust making sure you have a nice even layer about 1/4-inch thick.
Sprinkle the reserved 1 cup crumble topping all over the top of the cherry compote.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until edges and compute are set.
Allow the crumb bars to cool completely for at least two hours before you cut into them otherwise they will fall apart.
These are perfect with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream.
Note: Store Bars in an airtight glass container for up to one week. `