Sunday, January 30, 2011

granola bars

Lately I have been getting into the habit of spending a larger portion of my weekends baking or preparing nytimes  no knead dough for baking. For the last two weekends I try to get most of my reading for the week done by early afternoons Sunday and spend the rest of the day being domestic. Last week it was all about baking biscuits, poaching chicken,  preparing bread dough, and making a labor intensive beef stew. This weekend I made the granola bars my friend and neighbor has been making and enjoying. She got the recipe from smitten kitchen  (a fabulous cooking blog).
Her thick chewy granola bars are amazing. The recipe is so flexible, which means you can probably make them right now.

This is the perfect thing to have around two growing boys who are always hungry and for whom the "grab a piece of fruit" answer only works so many times.

Here is the recipe... Though it is hard to read os you should probably go straight to Smitten kitchen...

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.

A few notes...I used peanut butter and butter. I had just run out of honey so I used a combo of molasses, agave syrup and granulated sugar (all in all , less sweetener than she used)
I used walnuts, dark and light raisins, unsweetened coconut and a small handful of dark chocolate chips. 
I added a bit of wheat germ. I barely measured anything, mostly eyeballing it all and they turned out wonderfully. Delicious and holding together very well. 

  Some girlfriends and I hung out last night. we nibbled on appetizers, slurped soup from freshside, drank vino and played the old 1970s board game CAREERS. By the end, I had gone on and expedition to the moon, found uranium, acted in Hollywood, spent a year at sea and been elected to the Supreme Court.  And I still lost. But it was fun.

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