chewy granola bars
Let’s take a little departure here from super-seasonal foods to talk about granola bars. Considering the fact that they’re the perfect back-to-school lunchbox treat (or heck, mid-afternoon coffee-break-at-work treat), it’s a great time to try making a homemade batch.
I’ve been searching for years for a good homemade granola bar recipe. When I was in college, I went through a period where I was hooked on Nature Valley Oat & Honey bars, but I started to get frustrated with how easily they’d crumble into a mess of oats with the slightest bump in your backpack. My tastes have changed with age, too — I can’t stomach the intense sweetness of the commercial chewy brands anymore. Many of the recipes I’d tried didn’t hold together well, or seemed better suited to crumbling into yogurt as granola…
(you know where this is going)
…UNTIL I found this recipe! Of course I should have known, considering the origins, that it would be a keeper. The beauty of this granola bar recipe is its adaptability: use whatever nuts, seeds, and/or dried fruit you have on hand (I usually do a combination of walnuts, almonds, flaxseeds, and currants). Toss in some chocolate chips if you’re in the mood (I usually am). Use nut butter, or not (though I have yet to try it without the peanut butter).
I’ve decreased the sugar even a little further, and they’re still really terrific. The oat flour binds everything together to give just enough cohesiveness and chew…they’re sturdy bars, dense, and chock full of good-for-you ingredients. Miss A adores them. They’ve been my go-to edible gift for new moms, since they’re packed with nutrients, protein, and come in a super-portable package.
And, they were the perfect treat to make for our annual camping trip to the Adirondacks in August — except that we ate them all before we even left the house. Oops! Next time, I need to freeze a batch ahead of time.
Chewy Granola Bars
One tip: you really do need to let these cool fully before attempting to slice them. If I bake them during the day, I let them cool until just warm, then pop them in the fridge to chill down before slicing. Even better, sometimes I make them in the evening and let them cool on the counter overnight — they’re ready to cut in the morning. They store well in the fridge for up to a week, or can be wrapped and frozen.
1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
1/3 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar (I use 1/3; use more if you like things sweeter)
1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts
1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter (optional, though I’ve never tried it without)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup (I like maple syrup)
2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola
1 tablespoon water
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″x8″ pan with parchment paper (I don’t even bother to grease it). Set aside.
Stir together all dry ingredients (oats through fruit & nuts). Separately, in a microwave-safe bowl, combine the melted butter, honey or maple syrup, oil and water. Add the nut butter if using, and microwave for about 1 minute at 30% power to soften (this makes it easier to mix into the liquid ingredients.) Whisk together to combine, then stir in the vanilla.
Pour liquid mixture over dry ingredients and stir to thoroughly combine. Transfer the mixture to the baking pan, using the back of a spoon (or your hands) to firmly press the mixture into the pan.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Let cool completely in the pan.
Use the parchment paper as handles to lift the baked mixture out of the pan, then slice into bars with a sharp knife. (If the mixture seems to crumbly, try chilling in the fridge for 20 minutes or so.)
I store the bars stacked in an airtight container, preferably in the fridge. They also freeze well.