I got really excited about this little project the other day. So excited, in fact, that I posted on Facebook how excited I was.
It seems silly. All I was doing was making granola bars.
I can't even remember what got me started down this particular path. Did I read something somewhere? See a particularly attractive granola bar on another site? Maybe I was just standing in front of the kitchen cupboard, staring at its contents, wondering what I could make with all of it that would be different from what I've made before. That's the most likely answer.
I always get the best inspiration at the most mundane moments.
Anyway, the result was that I got completely swept up in an all-encompassing, urgent need to make granola bars now. Illogical, I know. I mean, I'm not even really a granola bar-type of person! True, I used to love those Nature Valley bars. (Or maybe I just loved that there were two in the package. As a kid, I was always hungry, and two-for-ones were right up my alley.) But I haven't even thought about granola bars in years. Yet the sudden thought of a crisp, crunchy, sweet and nutty snack was addictive, and pulled me in. Somewhere in there I suppose I realized that I could create something that was pretty healthy, a whole-grain, high-fiber snack I could feel good about, but I have to admit that "health food" was not very high on my list of motivating factors. I was too blinded by the crunchy-sweet-nutty part.
I learned long ago that once I fixate on a food, I might as well go ahead and make it, because that tunnel-vision isn't going away until I do.
And giving in to my desires further fueled my excitement. I started scouring the kitchen, which moments before had seemed empty of interesting ingredients, and came up with almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, roasted cinnamon, Steen's syrup . . . my granola bars were getting better every minute!
And when I realized that granola bars are basically just the right proportion of dry and liquid ingredients (like a ratio!), baked until firm, my mind reeled at all the intoxicating combinations I could try.
You're excited too, aren't you? You're in your kitchen right now, pulling the dried apricots and almond extract and coconut oil off the shelves (or maybe it's pine nuts and currants and lemon oil), barely able to think in the flurry of energy that will soon deliver to you your perfect granola bars. I knew it. I knew these things were compulsion-inducing. I knew you'd love it. I'll get out of your way.
Nutty Granola Bars
Inspired by Alton Brown
yields one 9x9-inch pan
These granola bars are quite sweet, which means that they're probably not breakfast food (for the kids, at least). But the sweetness is balanced in part by the Steen's, which imparts a bitter, molasses-like note. And the nuts, teff, and oats provide another layer of flavor to counter the sweeteners. As Josh said, "They remind me of candy, but they taste healthy." Feel free to customize them to your tastes and what's in your cupboards. Any dried fruit that you use should be stirred in at the end, when you're combining the dry and liquid mixtures. Chop anything large, like dried apricots, cherries, or apples, into small pieces.
2 oz whole raw almonds
1½ oz whole raw hazelnuts
1 oz whole raw pecans
8 oz certified gluten-free rolled oats
½ oz flaxseed meal (if you don't need to eat gluten-free, wheat germ would also be good here)
.65 oz almond flour/meal
.35 oz teff flour
3 oz (by weight) honey
3 oz (by weight) Steen's cane syrup, or an equal amount of molasses, honey or your favorite liquid sweetener
1.75 oz light brown sugar
1 oz unsalted butter (I think coconut oil would make a fabulous substitute)
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp roasted Saigon cinnamon, or regular cinnamon
½ tsp kosher salt
Optional: up to 6 oz dried fruit
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9x9-inch baking pan.
Coarsely chop all the nuts (in a nut mill, food processor, or by hand).
Mix together the chopped nuts, oats, ground flax, almond flour, and teff in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the oats are crispy but not yet beginning to brown. Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 300ºF. Return oat mixture to mixing bowl.
Meanwhile, combine the honey, syrup, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat just until all the sugar has dissolved.
Pour honey mixture over oat mixture and stir thoroughly. (If you're adding dried fruit, stir it in now.) Press evenly into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until firm and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool completely in pan, then cut into bars and wrap airtight. Granola bars keep, at room temperature, for up to 1 week.