January 28, 2010

Basics: Granola Bars

For our friends who currently would prefer a life sentence of indentured servitude to an afternoon in the kitchen, we present a series on our staple recipes. Most are simply basic formulas that offer the opportunity to customize and call your own. Seriously, every cook should have these babies in their arsenal.

Most weekday mornings I wake up knowing what I will eat for breakfast that day.  There is no real effort, no back and forth, it is set in my mind and acted on like routine.  Mostly because I eat the exact same thing for weeks, if not months on end, until one day I wake up with a new breakfast idea as if I dreamed it. My breakfasts toggle back and forth between toast, with either peanut butter and jam or honey, and yougurt with granola.  Both come with fruit.  Occasionally when I'm feeling wild I have a box-long affair with cereal.

Finally, finally one night I made these granola bars. See, I've been thinking about them ever since Nic and I did an experiment way back in 2009. We wanted to make granola bars, and we wanted them in two different flavors.  So we spent one afternoon mixing, toasting, tasting, chopping, adding more and more liquid until we grew tired of fussing and threw them in the oven.  What came out were rather interesting, one flavor was the clear winner, while the other tasted like...ooo it was bad. At least now I know the combination of dried apricots and peanut butter do not make food love in my mouth. They also didn't form into bars, they just kind of crumbled into clusters of granola.

This time I had clear goals: actual bars and tasty flavor. Not too much to ask.  I used what I had that sounded good- almond butter, maple syrup and a splash of vanilla. This recipe is just a formula- use whatever nuts, fruits, nut butters, flavorings you desire.  Old fashioned oats are necessary, but you can add flax seeds, wheat germ, or another grain as long as you decrease the oats a bit. Mix and match to your heart's content, and if you hit on a good combination let me know!

Granola Bars
Makes 12

3 cups rolled oats
1/2 walnuts
1/2 almonds
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup natural almond butter
1/4 brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried apricots

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line an 8x8 pan with foil.
2. Spread oats and nuts evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for 10-15 minutes. Use your nose as a guide- if you smell it, its done.
3. While oat mixture is toasting, combine maple syrup, almond butter, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and vanilla in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Once throughly combined, reduce heat to low or turn off.
4.  Once oats are through toasting, transfer to a large bowl and add dried fruit.  Add maple syrup mixture and stir to combine throughly.
5.  Spread mixture into prepared pan, and using a heavy bottomed glass or wooden spoon, press the mixture tightly into the pan.
6.  Bake for 20-30 minutes. Remove from oven and let it cool completely.