Recipe: The Granola Bars That Make All Other Granola Bars Taste Like Baked Dirt

I make food all the time, right? And, exactly the way I am with books, I have a bad habit of finding a really great recipe, making that great recipe, having it turn out really, really well, and then promptly forgetting where I found said recipe or even the ingredients in the recipe, thereby designating the delicious food item I had the privilege of making once to a sort-of Leah Limbo where really awesome meals go to float around forever, forgotten, hoping someone eventually finds them again and cares enough to pluck one back out of the nether. So. The smart thing to do would be to bookmark said recipe, or print it out, or–hey, here’s an idea!–post it to this website, but that’s always been, like, too hard.

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Until today. For the first time in forever (my apologies to Kristen Bell, there), I’m posting a recipe. Because–in a desperate attempt to avoid going to the grocery store, really–I wanted to make a quick snack to throw into SK’s lunch bag. And because I was trying to avoid said grocery store, which is why I was baking snack foods to begin with, I needed to use whatever we had in the pantry. So, firstly, I did what I often do, and turned to Smitten Kitchen for inspiration.

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And, as always, Smitten Kitchen came through. What follows is the recipe for the best granola bars I’ve ever made. And I’ve attempted a lot. Every single time, I burn them, or they end up too dry, or too boring, or too, I don’t know, granola-y. But these were perfect. Amazing. There’s more sugar here than I tend to use in a “healthy” kid-friendly snack, but, let’s be honest–that’s probably what makes them awesome. These are thick, chewy (I really can’t stand that word, but it fits), and will do the job a good snack is supposed to do, which is tide you (or your always-hungry six-year-old) over until your next meal.  A couple of quick points to mention:

1. Deb Perelman’s orgiginal recipe calls for lots more flexibility than I do here. So, if you’d like to see the options she gives you for mix-ins, head on over to her post. I wrote down what I used, because it works, and because I’ll probably just repeat this version whenever I make it. I don’t mess with a winning streak.

2. The original recipe calls for corn syrup. I don’t use corn syrup solely because it’s what I try to avoid in any packaged food we buy, and while this might be misguided hippie-ness in my part, I subbed in maple syrup. Because misguided hippie am I.

3. It is extremely useful to have an enthusiastic four-year-old help you with this. Because, unless you’re Leah, it is actually hard to mess up a granola bar, so having a preschooler’s help doesn’t stack the odds against you at all. Another plus to having a preschooler help you: it’s the easiest way to let go of OCD tendencies, because once you place a whisk in a four-year-old’s little hands, you’re officially forced to let go of any control over life that you once had. Oh, and it also ensures that you won’t skip bath time that night, even though your husband was traveling all week for work and you’re stretched so thin you very well might disintegrate, because, while your young daughter did an excellent, neat job of the whisking, when you took over you accidentally splattered a mix of butter and sugar all over her hair.

Oops.

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Granola Bars (adapted from Smitten Kitchen, recorded here and saved from Leah Limbo)

Makes 12 bars

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 c. quick rolled oats*
  • 1/2  c. granulated sugar
  • 1/3 c. oat flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 c. shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 3/4 c. chopped almonds and/or cashews
  • 1/4 c. ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 (heaping) c. dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 (heaping) c. dried cranberries
  • 1/3 c. peanut butter or another nut butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 6 T melted unsalted butter
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 1 T water

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan with a wide strip of parchment paper, allowing it to extend over the sides. Lightly grease paper and the exposed parts of pan with unsalted butter or cooking spray (I used a coconut oil spray).

Stir all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, vanilla, melted butter, honey, syrup, and water. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until the mixture is fully combined. Spread into the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and use your hands to press the mixture firmly into the pan (I’ll often roll a can of vegetables around the top to make sure everything is smushed down and molded into the pan). Remove the plastic wrap.

Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes until brown around the edges. Don’t worry if they seem a little light-colored or undercooked in the middle once those edges are golden brown–the bars will set once they’re completely cool.

Cool the bars in their pan on a cooling rack. For good measure afterward, I like to remove them from the pan (using the parchment paper as a “sling” to lift them up), and cool them further in the fridge for 30 minutes before cutting them.

Once completely cool, use a serrated knife to cut the bars into squares or long strips. Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator (for up to a week) or freezer.

*If you only have old-fashioned oats on hand, which is what I had, just pulse them a few times in a food processor to break them down.

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