Sunday, April 1, 2012

Granola Bars - First Attempt

If you were stranded on a desert island what food would you need to have with you?  I’d definitely need granola in some form or another – I love it and I really love it with yogurt…in fact my obsession with yogurt is borderline frightening.  Thank goodness it’s so good for you or I’d be quite the fatty.  And for the record, my other foods would include good bread, good cheeses, red grapes, bananas, and most definitely bacon.  Ok, I’m totally getting off topic… 

I’ve wanted to make granola bars for a long time and after seeing Ina Garten make them recently (I’ve been on a late afternoon Food Network kick at the gym) I realized that I had most of what I needed at home already so I was sold.

I like this recipe, but I think I can make it better – well, make it more to suite my tastes I should say.  Also, I think I should have baked them for a few more minutes to harden them a bit more as they’re a little crumbly.  I think they’d still be chewy, which I want, but they would just hold together better.  Anyway, this was definitely an encouraging first try.  Next time I plan to add some cinnamon and some seeds – likely pepitas, sunflower and flax (omega 3’s!).  Chocolate chips and/or peanuts would also be great.  There are countless possibilities.  Here’s how it’s done:

Recipe courtesy Ina Garten
2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed (omitted – you chew forever and it never goes away - blech!!)
½ cup toasted wheat germ
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
⅔ cup honey
¼ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup chopped pitted dates (omitted – anyone else think these look like roaches?  Gross.)
½ cup chopped dried apricots (use California rather than Turkish if you can, better flavor)
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup dried tart Montmorency cherries (my addition)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.  **I only had a 9”x13” pan so I made 1.5x the recipe – worked out well.**
Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dates, apricots, and cranberries (or any other add-ins) and stir well.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.