Caramelized Peach + Orange Blossom Oat Crumble Bars
Our lives are often marked by ritual. When we look back on our most memorable events, they are usually centered around holidays, large shifts, and general points of transition. For years, I grew up with that regular annual ritual of The End of Summer. Enjoying those last days at the beach or running around the park and those steady, regular preparations to start the school year up again.
The feeling of this shift has not left me. I still feel the same wave of momentum and anticipation, whispering in my ear “get ready, it is all starting again.” This ritual of preparation for a new season of work and study involves similar old patterns- complete indulgence in relaxation and enjoyment, paired with the gathering of tools and resources to have ready once autumn fully hits- but realized in slightly different forms. Instead of gathering school supplies, pencils, calculators and textbooks, I am collecting knowledge, ideas, music, and choreography to get back to the mode of being a teacher once again. I am transitioning, funnily enough, from being a summer-time student, taking workshops and focusing mostly on self-training, to school-year teacher at the conservatory and local yoga studios.
At the same time, just like my child-self always did, I am trying to squeeze the most out of these last weeks of summer as possible. Weekends at beaches just outside of Tangier, daily double-scoop cones at our favorite hole-in-the-wall ice cream place, and breezy evening walks along the newly constructed playa boardwalk.
While all of the feeling of a ritual is present at the moment, I have been trying to think of ways to mark the occasion with a tangible practice. Some traditions are built for us, such as national holidays and religious or spiritual celebrations (I have been thinking about all of this even more because of Eid al-Adha last week in Morocco). However, as we grow into ourselves, perhaps we find that some rituals do not quite fit and we have to shake them off, while others don’t exist in the places we feel like we need them. It was the ever inspiring and quotable Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote,
“I do believe that if your culture or tradition doesn't have the specific ritual you are craving, then you are absolutely permitted to make up a ceremony of your own devising, fixing your own broken-down emotional systems with all the do-it-yourself resourcefulness of a generous plumber/poet.”
With that in mind, I feel the need to create something that truly marks the palpable shift from summer to fall and how it effects my flow of work and pace of creativity. Perhaps a chosen day devoted to preparing and eating late-summer foods, drinking iced coffee and spreading out notebooks and calendars in front of me on the floor, setting concrete intentions and plans for the months ahead. Maybe a farewell-to-summer beach day with friends and a picnic. Honestly, I haven’t decided yet and am open to suggestions. Anyone?
All I do know is that I have come to appreciate the importance of implementing our own rites of passage and that this particular change of season deserves some kind of celebration. Joseph Campbell wrote that rituals are vital because they represent a moment when “…your consciousness is being re-minded of the wisdom of your own life.” Since being a child getting ready for the first day of kindergarten, every year I am reminded of the mindful task of preparing for a new phase of work, brought on with a new season and schedule. This cultivated and continuing wisdom is worth recognizing.
Food is undoubtably a huge part of many communal rituals and therefore a topic in and of itself that I could probably discuss for pages and pages. I’ll hold back though, for the moment, and focus in on this particular treat.
These caramelized peach and orange blossom oat crumble bars are somewhere between a traditional fruit crisp, peach pie, and sweet baked oatmeal. In my mind they are the perfect dessert (or breakfast, if you so choose) to represent and celebrate the ritual seasonal shift. The ripe, fresh peaches, caramelized in butter and sugar, honor summer produce along with that light hint of floral orange blossom water, which also always seems to bring something a little more Moroccan-inspired to the table. And yet, the cinnamon in the filling and crumble add this faint memory of apple pie, gently easing in those flavors and scents of fall that we all know and love. I think these bars may have to become a yearly tradition (made more than once), to say a fond farewell to summer, a warm welcome to autumn, and a general “thank you” to all things delicious that make up these peach-y crumbly beauties.
Caramelized Peach + Orange Blossom Oat Crumble Bars
Makes 9 bars, recipe adapted from Pretty Plain Janes
- 4 ripe peaches, peeled + cubed
- 3 tbsp butter
- 4 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 lemon or lime, juiced
- 2 tsp orange blossom water
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/2 cup (75g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (85g) whole wheat flour
- 1 cup (110g) rolled oats
- 1/2 cup (100g) light brown sugar
- pinch of sea salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 6 tbsp butter, softened
- 2 tbsp maple syrup or honey
- 1 tbsp milk
To make the filling, heat the butter and sugar together in a medium saucepan over a low flame. Add the peaches and other remaining ingredients and stir. Turn the heat up to medium and let the mixture simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until the water from the peaches has reduced to a thicker sauce. Slowly stir in the cornstarch, whisking to get rid of any lumps, then remove from the heat. Let cool as completely as possible before assembling the bars.
Line an 8x8" pan with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC). For the crumble, combine the flours, oats, sugar, salt + spices in a large bowl. Using your hands, add in the butter and syrup or honey until a crumbly mixture forms. Add the milk and continue to work the dough with your hands. It should be dry, but able to stick together when squeezed between your fingers. Press 3/4 of the mixture into your prepared pan, firmly pushing it down evenly and into the corners. Spread the peach filling on top, then sprinkle the remaining crumble across the peach mixture. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and let the bars cool completely in the pan before slicing and serving (otherwise they may be too soft and fall apart). Keep in the fridge until ready to eat.