Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Homemade granola bars

A while back I was on a major homemade granola bar kick.

It all started with this recipe. I loved the texture of the bars (soft, chewy) but they were super sweet. I'm shocked at just how much sugar people think tastes good, and I found them difficult to eat. Honestly they surpassed the level of sweetness I like in my desserts, let alone what I want to eat first thing in the morning. But I loved how soft and chewy they were!


So I tried cutting down the sugar in my next iteration. But I think I cut down the honey a bit too much because they were too crumbly this time. Good taste, but not the best texture.

Round 3 was next, and I have to say they were pretty close to perfect for me. Just enough honey for the bars to be a bit pliable, but not so much that you can't finish a bar. And I ended up using almost half the amount of sugar from the original recipe. HALF! (Full disclosure: they're not quite as soft as the original recipe. But seeing I could actually eat these I felt that it was a fair compromise.)


I also had the opportunity to use my brand new baking dish to make the bars (even though they're technically not baked in the dish)! Back in February my best friend surprised me by sending me this gorgeous ceramic dish from Anthropologie for my birthday. It makes me so happy just looking at it!!!

Favorite baking pan + favorite vase (from favorite store) = happy Jackie

A single batch in a 9" or 8" square baking dish makes 12 bars, which are perfect for a grab and go breakfast or snacks when taking a road trip.


Yours in putting the fast in breakfast,
Jacqueline

Chewy granola bars, generally adapted from Love and Olive Oil
Yield: 12 bars

My favorite part of making the different iterations were all the flavor combinations I tried. To keep this recipe flexible I'm going to give you the "template" recipe below, and you can mix/match the ingredients as you see fit. Here are some suggestions to get you going!

My favorite combo was pecans + tart cherries + cocao nibs 
The boy's favorite combo was nuts + dried blueberries + chopped chocolate

Nuts: almonds, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts
Dried fruit: tart cherries, dates, blueberries, apricots, figs

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 to 2/3 cup nuts, slivered or chopped (see above for ideas)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, optional
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes (or coconut oil!)
2 TBSP light brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon almond extract, optional
1/4 cup cocao nibs or chopped chocolate
1/4 to 1/2 cup dried fruit, coarsely chopped (see above for ideas)
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted, optional, for drizzling (I didn't do this, as I felt the bars were sweet enough. But if you wanted to add a bit of chocolate to the bars this would be a good way to do it!)

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line an 8-by-8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a small overhang on two sides. 
  2. In a large bowl, stir together oats, nuts, and coconut until evenly distributed. Spread onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once part way through baking, until oats are toasted and fragrant and coconut is lightly browned. (Note: This is the only time the bars are going to be baked, so if you really want to get your oats really toasted I'd recommend baking them for ~5 minutes before adding the coconut, then continuing to cook for another 8 - 10 minutes. This will keep the coconut from burning, as I found the coconut toasted faster than the oats.) Cool the mixture slightly.
  3. While the oats are baking, combine honey, butter, and brown sugar in the same bowl. Microwave until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the almost extract if using. (Note: If you don't have a microwave simply do this step in a small saucepan.)
  4. Once the oats are slightly cooled, add to the bowl with the butter/sugar mixture and stir until evenly coated. Stir in the cocao/chocolate and dried fruit. (Note: if you're using chopped chocolate and your oats are still warm the chocolate will melt a bit. This is not a problem! :) This "accidentally" happened to 1 of my batches and the result was a slightly chocolately granola, which was delicious! But if you don't want that make sure the oats are completely cooled.)
  5. Press granola mixture into the prepared pan, firmly pressing into place. (Note: This step is essential, so make sure you really press the granola into the pan. If you don't then your bars may not stay together.)
  6. Chill in the refrigerator until set, at least 2 hours. (Note: Again, this step is essential for your bars to stay together. Allow the bars to completely cool before cutting.)
  7. Remove from pan using parchment paper to lift it out of the pan. Transfer to a cutting board and cut in half crosswise, then into 12 rectangular bars. 
  8. Drizzle with melted chocolate, if desired. Granola bars will keep, layered between parchment or waxed paper in an airtight container for up to one week.

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