Thick, Chewy Cranberry Granola Bars
With a few long-distance cycling trips already under my belt this summer, I oftentimes feel like I am eating to bike. I routinely make my own sports drink and have made different portable snacks for my rides: peanutty energy bars, cocoa mint nibbles and almond chocolate larabars. Next up in my arsenal of snacks: homemade granola bars.
I have been making my own granola for some time, but had yet to venture into making granola bars. The thick and chewy granola bars posted by Smitten Kitchen (who, in turn, found and adapted it from King Arthur Flour) called out to me since she posted them in February. I bought oat flour immediately (back when I didn’t have a food processor) but it took me almost 6 months to finally buckle down and make them. What happened? Well, life (in a good way), and I was shunning desserts for a while. Thank goodness I bike now so I can enjoy these guilt-free.
These were subtly addictive. Chewy yet firm, oaty and wholesome, sweet from cranberries and with a strong peanut flavour. You munch on a chewy bar and think to yourself, ‘Is this what granola bars taste like?’ It is miles away from what you get in a store. Deb leaves the recipe completely flexible, with substitutions for the nuts, fruit and nut butter, and I have included my own interpretation below. I was surprised at the strong presence of the peanut butter flavour, so I may decrease it next time or switch it to almond butter which I think would work better with the cranberries. Otherwise, I went with my granola staples of dried cranberries, coconut and almonds. I found coconut chips at Bestwin which are like large coconut flakes. I liked the burst of coconut flavour but found they didn’t integrate with the bars as well; they left the bars more apt to crumble mid-bite. Next time, I’ll stick with my flaked coconut for the granola bars and use the coconut flakes for my crumbly granola.
Thick, Chewy Cranberry Granola Bars
1 2/3 cups quick rolled 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
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped almonds
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter (or less, optional)
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup honey, maple syrup or corn syrup
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon water
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. 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.
2. Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, melt the peanut butter if using, and whisk together the vanilla, melted butter or oil, liquid sweeteners and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry 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.)
3. 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.
4. 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.)
5. Once cool, a serrated knife (or bench knife) to cut the bars into squares. 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.
Makes 16 bars.