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Granola Bars

July 18, 2010

Granola Bars!

I know. I recently mentioned my ‘boycotting’ our heat emitting appliances in an attempt to moderate the temperature in our primitively air-conditioned apartment. And as I’m sure you may have guessed from the title of the post and photo above, I broke down. I had baking on the brain.

sticky granola mixture, ready to be pressed into pan

So, on a slightly cooler morning this week I woke up early, and after getting the ‘go-ahead’ from my dear cohabitant, fired up the oven to 350 toasty degrees. On the agenda, two of my most loved, bake-at-350-degrees breakfast staples: Granola Bars and the ever-delicious Morning Glory Muffins. Hey, if I was going to bake, why not really get down to business?


Granola Bars, pressed and ready to Bake!

So I pulled together all of the ingredients, my entire nesting set of bowls, a fleet of measuring cups, spoons, etc. and mixed, measured and baked my way to 12 muffins and 25 granola bars. Also resulting from my AM bake-a-thon: a thoroughly oatmeal/carrot/batter flecked counter top, a seemingly insurmountable heap of dirty dishes and a set of pajamas destined for the washing machine. Needless to say, we now have breakfast for a month. And pretty delicious breakfast at that.

Breakfast!

Thick, Chewy Granola Bars
from Smitten Kitchen, (which she adapted from King Arthur Flour)
Forget the Luna/Clif Bars. This recipe yields far superior, not-too-sweet product that’s chock-full of your favorite fruit, nuts and seeds. When cooked through to golden brown around the edges, the resulting bars taste almost caramel-y and are ideal for dipping ‘biscotti-style’ into your coffee or tea.

1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup oat flour (if you don’t have this, grind 1/3 cup of oats in a food processor until very fine)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups dried fruits and nuts* (I like to pulse some of the larger nuts in the food processor)
1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup honey, maple syrup or corn syrup
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan with parchment paper or tin foil, overlapping the edges of the pan. (in addition to preventing sticking, the material will function as a ‘sling’ when you remove the bars after baking) Grease the parchment paper/foil to further safeguard against sticking.

Mix the dry ingredients (fruits and nuts included) in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine the remaining wet ingredients (butter, nut butter, sweeteners and water), mixing until well incorporated. I use a microwavable bowl for this phase–if the nut butter/honey is a bit stiff and tough to whisk, a few seconds in the microwave will soften the ingredients and ease the process. (Alternatively, mix the wet ingredients in a sauce pan, applying very low heat. If going this route, remember that the goal is NOT TO HEAT the wet ingredients, but merely make them easier to work with.)

Pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients and mix until the oats, fruits and nuts are coated uniformly and thoroughly. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Using a spatula (or your hands covered with a pair of plastic baggies) press the mixture firmly into a even, dense layer.

Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes. When done, the bars will be golden brown around the perimeter of the pan and beginning to color on the surface. Fear not if the bars seem soft in the center. When they’ve cooled completely, they’ll set completely.

Allow the bars to cool completely before transferring to a cutting board with your parchment/foil sling. Don’t rush it–if you try to lift them with prematurely, you’ll break the sheet of bars. (Trust me. My impatience has caused me to make this mistake before.) Allowing them to cool/set overnight is ideal, but if you’re looking to expedite things, cool on the counter then refrigerate pan for an hour or so before cutting.

Once cool, a sharp knife to cut the bars into the shape of your choice. I like long skinny bars, but if squares or dainty trapezoids float your boat, go for it. Stack the bars in an airtight container and store in the fridge.

NOTES:
*For this batch, I used a combination of cashews, unsweetened shredded coconut, flax/pumpkin/sunflower seeds, wheat germ, and cranberries, but variations are endless. If your aim is for a sweeter snack/dessert option, chocolate chips work well too.

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