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Chewy Granola Bars Packed with Goodness and Love

August 14, 2012

I recently took a trip with my Novio to Ohio.  My beloved niece is a resident, specializing in pediatric medicine at Ohio State University (Go Buckeyes*!).  I may have stated that before, but when it comes to her, I do tend to repeat myself.  She’s there with her hubby, who is a resident in orthopedics, also at OSU.

I know about the East Coast. I know about the West Coast. But when it comes to that vast terrain in the middle, I’m a bit sketchy. Well, I’m proud to report that I can now state with utmost confidence that Columbus, Ohio is a great small city (a bit like a scaled-down Chicago). Filled with charming older buildings, glistening newer buildings, great restaurants, beautiful parks (including a very whimsical topiary park, located in “The Old Deaf School Park”, no less) gorgeous old trees, lovely neighborhoods and there’s even a river running through it. I would show you pics of all this but I spent a lot of time eating…

     

… and more eating.

I  was also going to see two good friends. So, what to pack as edible gifts?  Answer: chewy granola bars.

These granola bars were inspired by several sources, including King Arthur Flour (an outstanding resource for all things baked), Smitten Kitchen, and 101 Cookbooks.  There are a gazillion granola bar recipes out there, and a ton more available for purchase.  But they are all too sweet, and not packed with enough of the good stuff that I want in a granola bar.

So I began experimenting with different versions.

Using a food scale really helps to keep measurements accurate.  You’d be surprised how different the amounts are as compared to solid measuring cups.

You can purchase oat flour.  But it’s way less expensive to grind a little oatmeal into a fine flour, using a mini food processor.  Which, by the way, is a very handy, dandy thing to have in your kitchen.  Plus, it doesn’t cost a lot and it’s cute.

Brown rice syrup is a relative newcomer to my pantry.  I came across it at 101 Cookbooks. Its a liquid sweetener that can be used to replace corn syrup. I love all things corn. But without going into a nutritional science lecture, I’ll just say that when I come across a creation with corn syrup, I immediately retreat.  Brown rice syrup allows me to do a lot more without getting willies.

To lower the fat, I stay away from butter (love the stuff, but prefer to use it for my bread) and use oil whenever I can. I omit the white sugar that I saw in many recipes, and include my beloved maple syrup.  To boost flavor, I use creamy almond butter.

This smelled so delicious, I had more than a few tastes. NO, I mean, I was checking for…consistency.

Press into pan with all you’ve got!

Cut bars with a steady, even hand.

All packed up and ready to eat

Chewy Granola Bars

Ingredients:

1 2/3  c.  quick rolled oats (aka 1 minute oatmeal)  If you notice in the image above, I used old fashioned oats, which will do in a pinch, and I wasn’t about to return to the store.
1/3 c. oat flour, made by processing oatmeal in a food processor or blender until finely ground.
1/2 c. peanuts
3/4 c. walnuts or pecans
2 c. dried fruit (I use diced apricots, cranberries and golden raisins)
1/4 c. sunflower seeds
1/2 c. dried unsweetened coconut
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/3 c. safflower (or canola) oil
1/3 c. maple syrup
1/3 c. brown rice syrup
2 T. water
1/3 c. almond butter (or another nut butter) (Delicious but can be omitted if allergic)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 °.

The dry ingredients should equal 3-4 cups.  To be more precise, use a food scale and measure 10-15 ounces for the total of fruit, nuts and seeds.

Toast the oats on a baking sheet in oven for 5 minutes.

Add nuts, stir and toast for 5 more minutes.  Place in large bowl.

Stir all dry ingredients together, including oats, oat flour, nuts, dried fruit, seeds, salt, cinnamon and coconut.

Mix together oil, maple syrup and brown rice syrup.  I like to heat this mixture for 30 seconds in the microwave, to better blend with the dry ingredients.

Add this mixture to large bowl, together with water and almond butter.

Toss until mixture is evenly combined.

Line a medium jellyroll pan (9″ x 9″ x 2″) with parchment paper, leaving room for the paper to go over both sides.  If you don’t have a jellyroll pan, then use a 9″ square baking pan.  Lightly grease the parchment paper.

Spread mixture in pan.  Using oiled hands, press the mixture firmly to insure that it is molded tightly to the shape of the pan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until they are brown around the edges.  The bars may still seem soft, but they will set completely, once totally cool.

Cool the bars on a rack.  After 30 minutes, lift them out of the pan, using the parchment paper onto a rack to cool the rest of the way. When cool, cut with a serrated knife (or bench knife) into squares.  If the bars seem crumbly while being cut,  carefully place them with paper back in the pan and chill  in the fridge for 1/2 hour. and then cut them cold.

To store, wrap bars individually in plastic or place in airtight container.

bb Granola Bar Tips:

  •  Keep the ratio of dry ingredients (3 to 4 c.) to liquid ingredients (about 1 c.) stable.  I got a bit overzealous with all the ingredients around me and went overboard with the dry ingredients.  Try not to do that, and you’ll have a tighter bar.
  • This is a very flexible recipe. If you’re allergic to nuts, use all dried fruit or fruit and seeds.  Don’t like coconut or seeds? Omit them.  My mix in this version included roasted peanuts, walnuts, dried apricots, dried cranberries, golden raisins, sunflower seeds, and dried unsweetened coconut.  Other ideas include pecans, dried cherries, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and dried apples.  You are limited only by your imagination.
  • To keep measurements as accurate as possible, use a food scale and measure in ounces.
  • I can’t stress this next tip enough:  when setting the mixture in the pan, PRESS, PRESS, and PRESS again.  It is critical that it be packed as tightly as possible.
  • These bars are affected by climate.  If it is very hot or humid, the bars will crumble easily.  Given that, it’s probably a good idea to store in either the fridge or freezer.

*bb triviaBuckeye refers to a tree native to the Ohio region.  it bears an acorn-like fruit and is also the name of a confection made with PB & chocolate, which resembles the acorn.  It pops up everywhere, including the ice cream cone I ordered before returning home.  Chocolate ice cream, laced with ribbons of peanut butter throughout.  Yay, Buckeyes!

Karen, Judy and Andra

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2 Comments
  1. Robin permalink

    While the food looks yummy, I LOVE seeing Karen in her scrubs!!
    Where has the time gone?

    • I don’t know, Robin! The first thing I wanted to do when we arrived was to go to the Medical Center to see K. in her scrubs! Thanks for commenting! J

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