Recipe Review: Thick & Chewy Granola Bars

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Aloha friends!

Grabbing a granola bar is often the go-to option for a quick snack while on the run or an easy snack to pack for work. The problem with granola bars, and many other pre-packaged snacks, is that they are often high in added sugar, fat and salt, and offer very little nutritional value. Sometimes it might seem like the product is a nutritious option (e.g., advertised as high in fibre), but sneaky advertising can mask the truth about the ingredients (e.g., more fiber usually makes the product taste less than desirable, which increases the amount of sugar added to make the product taste better). Now don't get me wrong, I always have a box of granola bars in the cupboard, but when I have the time I like to make my own. Sounds intimidating? Time consuming? No way! Remember Kathryn's nut-free lunch box granola bars

This week I decided to try out a granola bar recipe by Smitten Kitchen. I'm obsessed with chewy treats (e.g., cookies, granola bars), so I was intrigued by this recipe:

Thick, Chewy Granola Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats (if gluten-free, be sure to use gluten-free oats)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar (depending on your sweetness preference)
  • 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
  • 2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts 
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional, namely because I was not convinced that the flavor came through)
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 cup honey, maple syrup or corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup (see note below)
  • 1 tablespoon water

Note: This recipe was originally adapted from King Arthur Flour and called for “sticky bun sugar” which can be made with sugar, butter and corn syrup. This is why corn syrup is listed within one ingredient but also separately. 

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan with parchment paper and lightly grease the parchment paper and exposed sides of the pan.  
  2. Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter, liquid sweeteners and water.
  4. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry (and the nut butter, if using) until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing firmly to ensure the mixture is molded to the shape of the pan.
  5. Bake the bars for ~30-40 minutes, until brown around the edges. Note: They’ll still seem soft and almost under-cooked when you press into the center of the pan but do not worry, they’ll set completely once completely cool.
  6. Once cooled, cut into squares. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes if the bar seems crumbly when you try to cut into it. 

Recipe by Smitten Kitchen: https://smittenkitchen.com/2010/02/thick-chewy-granola-bars/

The reality:

These granola bars were so easy to make! The best part is that the recipe is so versatile so you can customize these granola bars whichever way you want. Here's the variation I made:

  • For the combination of fruit and nuts, I used golden raisins, pecans and pumpkin seeds.
  • I sprinkled the top with unsweetened shredded coconut.
  • I used maple syrup as my sweetener and used only ~1/4-1/2 cup of sugar.
  • I didn't include the corn syrup since I didn't have any on hand.
  • Since I've been obsessed with all things pumpkin lately, I substituted the nut butter for pumpkin puree and added in some spices (i.e., cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves).

I was really nervous about how the texture would turn out with the pumpkin and lack of corn syrup, considering that this was the first time I made these granola bars. In the end, I think the texture might be a bit off from how they should actually turn out, but the granola bars still had a chewiness to them and were delicious! I cut the bars into little squares and kept them in the freezer to grab whenever I needed (similar to what I did with the pumpkin chocolate bites).

I will definitely try making these granola bars again and have fun playing around with different ingredients. So many different variations and additions you can make, the possibilities are endless (e.g., add hemp hearts (source of protein, omega-3 & -6) or chia seeds (source of omega-3, fibre & calcium). Share your suggestions in the comments below :)

xo Michelle

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