Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Recipe: Homemade Chewy Granola Bars

I'm a sucker for Quaker Oats chocolate peanut butter granola bars, but I realize they're neither very natural nor very healthy. So I decided to make some of my own. I found a recipe on Orangette that was derived from Smitten Kitchen which was in turn based on one from King Arthur flour.

I will caution you that this recipe does get a lot of things dirty (food processor, multiple bowls, etc.), but it's totally worth it. If you, like me, are trying to make this while a baby is crying, you should avoid leaving the butter in the microwave instead of in the bowl. I didn't catch that error until 10 minutes into baking, at which time I mixed it into the dish and patted it down again. Despite that, it still turned out delicious, so this recipe is fairly mistake-proof!

When all was said and done, these were hella good. Like crazy, I looked forward to having one every day, good. These were my special treat I allowed myself when I was doing an early morning feed with my little one, and now I'm quite sad that they're gone. I might try it with less chocolate next time, but let's get real, the chocolate part is the business.

Chewy Granola Bars
adapted from Orangette and Smitten Kitchen

2 cups quick-cooking oats, divided
1/3 cup sugar (or more if you choose less sweet add-ins)
2-3 cups of add-ins (I used 1.5 cups raw pecan halves, 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips, 1/2 cup dried cranberries)
½ tsp. fine salt
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 Tbsp. melted unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbsp. honey
4 Tbsp. agave syrup
1 Tbsp. water

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter or spray cooking spray in an 8-inch square baking pan. Cut a rectangle of parchment paper to line the pan's bottom and lay across two sides.  Lightly grease the parchment paper.

The original recipe calls for oat flour. Instead of wasting money buying that, put 1/3 cup of the quick-cooking oats in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground.

In a large bowl, stir together the remaining 1 2/3 cup oats, ground oats, sugar, mix-ins and salt. Other options for mix-ins include coconut flakes, walnuts, dried cherries, etc. I'm toying with a mix of dried apricots, walnuts and white chocolate chips for next time.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, vanilla extract, melted butter, honey, agave syrup and water. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients, and stir until the mixture is evenly moistened. Transfer to the prepared pan, pressing firmly with the back of a wooden spoon.

Bake the bars for about 30-40 minutes until they’re brown around the edges and just beginning to darken on top.  It will still seem soft, but it will get firmer as it cools.

Allow the bars to cool completely in the pan or carefully remove with paper and let cool outside of pan.  If you're worried about crumbling, put in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. When cool, run a sharp knife along the edges of the pan; then pull up on the parchment paper to lift the sheet of bars out of the pan.  Cut the bars into squares.



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