Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thick, Chewy Granola Bars

I have basically been on a no sugar, no dairy diet, for a couple weeks now ( I already haven't been eating meat). This might come as a shock if you know me. I had my blood checked while I was in California and it didn't look good. My system was being overtaken with sugar and it was causing regular headaches and fatigue. I decided I had to get my body in check with this cleanse/detox. It is the only way to get rid my body of the sugar/yeast and stop my problems before they multiply into something worse. It's a lonely diet. It's a sad diet. No alcohol, bread of any kind, not mention pastas, tortillas and the like. No desserts, fruit, cheese, milk, eggs--I could go on but I'll stop myself. Needless to say, I have not been cooking much of anything that I'd be thrilled to share with you. The problem is I still want to post and try recipes out.

Problem solved. Well, for now anyway because I'm going to share with you this killer granola bar recipe that I made in late March and just forgot or never got around to posting before today. I really can't believe I didn't put this one up sooner because I was very pleased with the results. I read about these first on the Smitten Kitchen website, but they are originally from King Arthur Flour. It really helped to understand that homemade granola bars are not rocket science. In fact they are extremely flexible. Most all the ingredients can be swapped for another. All you are looking for is a basic proportion of chunky (nuts, dried fruit) to sticky (syrups, sugar oil or butter) and from there, everything thing else is up to you. The vanilla is optional. In fact you could use some almond extract instead if your feeling that. The cinnamon is optional. You can use no dried fruit or all dried fruit in your mix. Toss in flax seeds or sesame seeds! Seriously, make it your own. These are sweet, but not overly sweet. Chewy and thick, like the title, go figure. They are also so good and they stay chewy meaning they won't harden up on you.

Thick, Chewy Granola Bars
adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar (use more for sweeter bars, less for mildly sweet)
1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts (*examples below)
1/3 cup peanut butter or almond butter (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

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 using) 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. Or just spray your fingers with non stick spray.)

Bake the bars for 30-40 minutes, until they're brown around the edges and don't be afraid to get a little color on the tops too. they'll still seem soft and almost under baked when you press into the center of the pan but do not worry, they'll set completely once 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, use a serrated knife to cut the bars into squares. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic wrap or stack them in an airtight container. In humid weather, it's best to store the bars in the refrigerator. They also freeze well.

*Suggestions for the nuts and fruit: Dried cranberries, cherries, apricots, raisins, shredded coconut, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chocolate chips, walnuts, almonds, pecans, wheat germ, flax seeds, dried pineapple, dried apple...The list goes on. My mix was coconut, almonds, cashews, and dried apricots. But that's just what I had on hand at the time.

I suggest you dice up the fruit and nuts that you add to make eating the bars easier. These are definitely not low cal, but they are delicious and probably a lot better for you than all the preservative crap in the store bought ones. Just so you know these don't taste anything like the store bought ones. These are leaps and bounds better and to quote Martha, that's a good thing.