Baking as a hobby has its downsides–there are tempting desserts hanging around the house all of the time! Why reach for an apple when there is a piece of cake or an experimental cookie lying around, just waiting to be tasted. And then there are the periodic quality control tastings that must occur. I thought to try out something a little healthier to see how it would fare in my household. In comes the granola bar. I love store-bought granola bars, though I must admit, I only get hungrier after eating them! But I always wondered how they were made. How do they get the oats and other pieces to stick together?! I once tried a recipe from a professional chocolatiering book (they dipped squares into chocolate). It was a little complicated and even called for melted cocoa butter. Hardly something I would want to whip up for a kids’ snack! What I have for you instead is a recipe that is simple both in how its made and in its ingredients. In this recipe, oats and nuts bind together using a mixture of butter, honey, and brown sugar. Now on to how these bars were made!
First, I toasted oats (not quick or steel-cut) together with chopped almonds, broken up walnuts, sunflower seeds, and unsweetened coconut.
Halfway through, I used a heat-proof spatula to flip the mixture over so that the other side would get toasted.
I transferred the mixture to a large metal bowl. I then melted together honey, butter, and brown sugar in a small saucepan set on the stove over medium heat.
I stirred until the mixture started to bubble. I then took the saucepan off the heat and mixed in the vanilla extract and salt.
Then I poured the hot mixture into the toasted oat/nut mixture and stirred until the oats were coated completely with no dry spots anywhere.
Then I let the mixture sit a couple of minutes to cool before mixing in dried cranberries and raisins. Chopped dates and/or dried apricots would have worked well too.
I pressed the mixture into a square pan lined with oiled aluminum foil.
I then returned the pan to the oven and baked it for about 5 minutes. I removed the pan from the oven and set it on a wire rack to cool before putting it in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. I transferred the granola to a cutting board by using the aluminum foil overhand to lift it out of the pan. Then I cut the granola into bars–6 rows x 3 rows, which amounted to bars that were 1 1/2 inches wide x 3 inches long. If you like bigger granola bars, try cutting the bars into 4 rows x 3 rows.
Since we couldn’t/shouldn’t eat all the bars in one sitting, I had to store them somewhere and somehow. I stacked the bars, placing waxed paper in between each bar so they wouldn’t stick to each other. I then wrapped the stacks together in aluminum foil and placed the package in a large Ziploc bag (gallon). I kept the bars in the refrigerator, though they can stand at room temperature (but take them out of the Ziploc bag).
They make a truly terrific snack for kids and adults alike. My kids aren’t fond of nuts unless ground into a nut butter or made into a sweet nut paste for chocolates, but I heard no complaints from them after they tested out these granola bars!
Next time I make these, I need to add in some mini-chocolate chips!!