Cereality, for Real (Cherry-Chocolate Oatmeal Squares)

Cereality, for Real (Cherry-Chocolate Oatmeal Squares)

An email arrived this morning from A, an old publishing colleague who’s been freelancing with another old colleague at Cereality Cereal Bar and Cafes, the Quick Service Restaurant chain he and his partner founded. She’s just accepted a full-time position as their Director of Marketing, and will be relocating to Chicago this summer to work on their national rollout. In her email, A discusses how exciting it is to help build a company with huge growth potential from its very early stages—right now there are only two outlets: one in Tempe, AZ, and one in Philadelphia.

S and I visited the Philly outlet just after it opened and had a lot of fun. They serve dozens of different cereals, by all the major manufacturers, with more than thirty different toppings, plus snack mixes and bars and cereal-based smoothies (I’m not sold on that one, yet). They’ve really thought out their concept well: the look of the place is homey/cool kitchen and family room, the servers are knowledgeable and happy to be there, and even the custom packaging works to build the brand:

Speaking as a friend, my favorite part of A’s email was this:

“I love going to work everyday and feel engaged as I haven’t for a long time.”

I’m absolutely thrilled for her and her family, and just a wee bit jealous. If you read my first post on Cereality, you know I wasn’t exactly on board in the beginning. A has proven herself a smarter woman, and a more visionary one, than I, and I salute her.

By coincidence, yesterday I baked using one of Cereality’s building blocks: low-fat Cherry Chocolate Oatmeal Squares, adapted from the recipe on the back of the Quaker Oats package. I wasn’t completely thrilled with them—they’re a little tough, in the way that low-fat baked goods often are, though the flavor is lovely. I suspect it’s because I mixed in the flour a little too vigorously—my understanding is that it encourages the glutens to develop too early & too much, leading to a tougher texture. The recipe I’m providing below is what I’m going to do next time—I’ve reduced the amount of flour, and included specific instructions against overstirring.

WW readers: made with Splenda Baking Blend, the squares are three points each—but note that they’re quite small. When I first cut up the tray I was impressed with the size of a serving, but that’s because I’d cut it into 12 bars, not 24 squares! The picture at the top of this posting shows three three-point squares.

Cherry Chocolate Oatmeal Squares
Adapted from Quaker Old Fashioned Oats’ package
Serves 24

¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar [I used Splenda Baking Blend]
8 oz. vanilla or plain fat-free yogurt
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
2 T. vegetable oil
2 T. 1% milk
1 T. vanilla
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 ½ t. ground cinnamon
½ t. salt
3 cups old-fashioned oats
Scant 1 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
Scant 1 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine sugars, yogurt, egg whites, oil, milk, and vanilla; mix well. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; mix well. Add to yogurt mixture and stir just until combined. Do not overmix. Stir in oats, cherries, and chocolate chips.

Spread dough onto bottom of ungreased 13 x 9 baking pan. Bake 28 to 32 minutes [mine took 30] or until light golden brown. Cool completely on wire rack, then cut into squares. [Store tightly wrapped—low-fat baked goods have a tendency to dry out.]