Neither my husband or I are very good about eating breakfast. I know it’s important, but it takes me awhile to get hungry after waking up – and I already get up far earlier than I’d really like to! We were buying granola bars and I’d keep a few in my work bag, but when I started looking at the labels more closely I realized I was probably better off not eating anything.
I have been making granola for years, but I’d never really considered making my own granola bars. A few minutes of searching through my Google Reader archives turned up a handful of recipes to try. I knew I’d like to use my new go-to granola recipe as the base – Better than from a bakery granola adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Cooking by Jeanette at Everybody Likes Sandwiches (and, by the way, if you’re not reading Jeanette’s blog, fix that now – she’s fantastic). After some trial and a few errors with a variety of granola bar recipes, I’ve found one that works really well for us – adapted from Kiss My Spatula, who adapted it from Mark Bittman.
Lately I’ve been making a batch every week or two and storing them in the fridge. Before heading out the door in the morning I throw one in my bag and it holds together until I’m on the ferry. The longer it is out of the fridge, the crumblier it gets, but even when it falls apart it’s still tasty – just not quite as portable and easy to eat!
A note on the mix-ins: For a few weeks I used this as a way to clean out a backlog of leftover dried fruits and coconut from various snack and baking experiments. When I used the coconut the bars were a little too sweet for my liking, but it was a great way to get rid of a quarter of a bag of sweetened coconut that otherwise would have languished in my fridge for months. Right now I’m really liking the combination of pistachios and dried cherries, but I can’t think of a fruit and nut combination that wouldn’t be good. I almost always have almonds, pecans, and walnuts in the fridge, so if I don’t have pistachios, one of those goes in. Almonds and raisins are a good combination. Macadamia nuts made a particularly tasty batch, though I left the nuts whole so the bars didn’t hold together as well. Next time I use macadamia nuts I’ll chop them up first. Flax seeds make a good addition, too. Depending on the nuts and fruit you use, a little dried spice – perhaps some cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom – in the granola mixture could be really good.
Granola Bars, the way I make them
1/4 cup light olive oil (light flavor, not light calories)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
4 to 5 cups granola (see below)
1 cup roasted, salted pistachios
1 1/2 cups dried cherries
Bring the oil, sugar, and honey to a boil in a small pot. Put the granola, pistachios, and dried cherries in a large bowl and toss to combine, then pour the honey-sugar-oil mixture in and stir until the granola is coated. Line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper – with over-hang to allow easy removal from the pan – then press the granola mixture into the pan. You’ll want to press it in pretty firmly so the granola bars aren’t too crumbly. Let it cool in the fridge, then remove it from the pan (using the parchment “sling”) and cut into bars. Store in the fridge for optimal texture.
For the granola (adapted from Everybody Likes Sandwiches, who adapted it from Baked: New Frontiers in Cooking):
4 cups rolled oats
6 Tablespoons light (light flavor, not light calories) olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325F (if your oven has convection, this is a good time to use it). Whisk the oil, honey, sugar and vanilla extract together in a large bowl. Add the oats and use your hands to mix until the oats are well coated. Your hands will be sticky, but think of it as a sugar scrub – great for your hands! After washing your hands, cover two rimmed baking sheets with parchment and divide the oat mixture between the two pans. Bake for 10 minutes, then use a spatula to flip the granola over. Switch the pans’ positions in the oven then bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on the pans.
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