Let me tell you about granola bars in my house….
In my house, granola bars are eaten almost daily. We take them camping. We take them hiking. We store them in our cars. We eat them on the go and as snacks at 2 in the morning. I keep three or four in my backpack. Currently there are four Costco sized boxes of granola bars in my house. We buy Chewy Bars, Cliff Bars, Nature Valley Bars, Naked Bars, Fiber One Bars… if it’s a food item and it’s in granola bar form: we’ve had it.
Anyway, I recently read a post on Smitten Kitchen about homemade granola bars and I thought I’d give it a go. I didn’t want to go buy a bunch of dried fruit or nuts that would be here for me to eat (I’m trying to diet again.) so I rummaged in my cupboards and came out with raisins and a soy energy mix (also bought at Costco) that’s been in there for at least six months.
Mixed it all up, took pictures, popped it in the oven, had a computer freak out, pulled it out of the oven and into the fridge, started to wait, fixed my computer issues, made a sandwich, waited some more, picked up the kitchen, waited some more and then finally, finally! They were hard enough to cut. It made a mess and my hands got sticky, so no photos. Next time I’m definitely going to crunch up the bits of stuff more because I think that was part of the problem. (Also, chocolate chips next time!)
I got about 8 to 12 bars from one 8″ x 8″ pan. I put half in the freezer and half in the cupboard. Then I sat down to eat one.
Fantastic! The soy nuts didn’t taste like soy nuts anymore! The pepitos were delicious and coated in cinnamon! It was crunchy and chewy and everything a proper granola bar should be.
I’ve posted my variation of Smitten Kitchens Granola Bars but like she said: this recipe is super flexible. Make it your own! Don’t like soy? Don’t put soy in them! Don’t like honey, use something else (agave nectar maybe)! I’m thinking next time I’ll try peanut butter, chocolate chips, raisins and maybe pecans. Also, I’m thinking ginger and molasses and pumpkins at some point too, because I would totally nom the hell out of a gingery molasses granola bar, wouldn’t you?
1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats (if gluten-free, be sure to use gluten-free oats)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (use more for a sweetness akin to most purchased bars; use less for a mildly sweet bar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts (total of 10 to 15 ounces) (This is where I used 2 cups soy energy mix and about a half a cup of raisins.)
1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter (optional; I did not use any)
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup honey, maple syrup or corn syrup (i used honey)
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
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 (I didn’t but you could?).
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.