Saturday, March 27, 2010

Granola Bars

I love these. I would have loved them even more if I was eating them out in the wilderness. Which I was not. Scot was! We had been planning on going on a snowshoeing trip with some friends and staying a couple nights in a yurt. As I have mentioned more than once (sorry), I sprained my ankle times two. Therefore, I could not hike up this mountain. I am actually recovering much quicker and have been carefully walking on it for the past few days. Although, it gets sore and weak fast. One of our friends who went on the trip offered to pull me up in a sled. Scot offered to carry me. They were both just trying to be nice because I really think there is nothing worse for me than staying home from things like this. For one, I am constantly worrying about everyone on the trip (scared about avalanches, blizzards, getting lost, and other things that would probably never happen). And the funny thing is, when I am on these trips, I never worry about any of these things. Second, it is just lame. Third, I feel left out. Fourth, other obvious things.

I did try to get involved by preparing all the food that I normally would have prepared. That is where these granola bars come in. They are very filling. That is one of the reasons they weren't as useful when you are sitting at home. I ate part of one for dessert and I got so full. I had one for breakfast with coffee and that was nice.

For my nut and fruit combo, I used: 1 cup almonds, 1 cup craisins, 1/2 cup dried coconut. I pulsed all of them in the food processor because I don't like chunky granola bars. I also used almond butter.

I would recommend using 1/2 cup sugar or less. I don't remember what I used, but they were more than sweet enough for my taste. I am wondering if I could get away with no added sugar at all.

I am so excited about making these for hiking trips this summer. And I want to play around with the flavors. Try new things. Scot wants me to try some chocolate version. I would definitely recommend the craisin, almond, and coconut combo. This recipe looks long, but it is really simple...I just kept some of the tips in there because I thought they were nice.

Here are some pics of what those crazy guys were doing out there. The yurt:

Snowshoeing in (deep snow):

Thick, Chewy Granola Bars
adapted from King Arthur Flour via smitten kitchen

This is probably the most flexible recipe I’ve posted. When it comes to granola, what you’re looking for is a basic proportion of chunky (nuts, dried fruit) to sticky (syrups, sugar, butter or oils) and from there, you can really go to town. The vanilla is optional. The cinnamon is optional. You can use no dried fruit or you can use all dried fruit in your 2 to 3 cup mix. You can toss in things like puffed rice cereal or flax seeds. In the comments, I’d love to hear what mix you came up with and how you liked it. I can only imagine the possibilities.

1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats (if gluten-free, be sure to use gluten-free oats)
1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar (use more for a sweetness akin to most
purchased bars; use less for a mildly sweet bar)
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 (total of 10 to 15 ounces)*
1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter (I used almond butter) (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional, namely because I was not convinced that the
flavor came through)
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup honey, maple syrup or corn syrup
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (see Note above)
1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray. Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter or oil, liquid sweeteners and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry (and peanut butter, if you’re using it) until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan. (A piece of plastic wrap can help with this, as you press down on the back of it.)

Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges — don’t be afraid to get a little color on the tops too. They’ll still seem soft and almost underbaked when you press into the center of the pan but do not worry, they’ll set completely once completely cool.

Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. (Alternately, after about 20 minutes you can use your parchment “sling” to lift and remove the bars, and place them in their paper on the rack to cool the rest of the way. This can speed the process up.)

Once cool, a serrated knife (or bench knife) to cut the bars into squares. [Updating to note, as many had crumbling issues:] If bars seem crumbly, chill the pan of them further in the fridge for 30 minutes which will fully set the “glue”, then cut them cold. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container. In humid weather, it’s best to store bars in the refrigerator. They also freeze well.

*Suggestions: Dried cranberries, apricots, pecans, sunflower seeds, coconut, walnuts, sesame seeds, pepitas, dried pples or even chocolate chips. My mix: 1/2 cup wheat germ, 1 cup dried cherries, 1 cup walnuts, 1/2 cup pecans and 1/2 cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes. Because my pieces were all pretty coarse, I pulsed them in the food processor a few times to break it up a little, though this isn’t necessary if you don’t mind yours chunkier.

(Servings: 8, Prep time: 20 min., Cook time: 40 min., Difficulty: Easy)

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