When I started graduate school I started trying to make various bars to help fuel my long days (I was also working part time). I tried baked bars, unbaked bars, crunchy, chewy, you name it. Ingredients from textured vegetable protein to applesauce to wheat germ came and went as I experimented to find the combination I liked best. After many many batches of different bars, I now have a formula that I can adjust depending on my mood and what ingredients I have on hand.
Even though I'm done with school I still love these granola bars. They are great for travel, of course, but I frequently eat them for breakfast, usually with some nonfat or 2% Greek yogurt. They are incredibly hearty (nutrition facts at the end of the post if you're interested) and this keeps me full for hours.
I make a large batch of these, enough for two people to eat them for 2-3 weeks. You can easily cut the recipe in half and use a 9"x13" pan.
The first step is to chop 3-4 cups of nuts. I typically use almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts but you could also use macadamias, pecans, cashews, or pumpkin seeds, anything that can be toasted. Add some buckwheat or quinoa if you like, and toast it all in the oven.
Mmm, nice and toasty.
Next you toast some oats and unsweetened coconut.
While these things are toasting, you mix together some other ingredients that will not get toasted, like dried fruit and various seeds. I like chia, hemp and flaxseeds but also sometimes add sesame seeds. I usually like to add some wheat germ, although I am (in theory) trying to cut back on wheat. I use a giant 8-quart bowl to mix the ingredients.
When the nuts and oats are toasted, add them to the giant bowl and mix everything together. Then, melt some butter and different liquid sweeteners until it bubbles for a couple of minutes, then add some almond butter or other nut butter. This binds everything together and makes the bars really chewy.
Stir and stir and stir until it's all mixed together.
Dump onto a 11"x17" pan that has been lined with wax paper and spread it around with a spatula. Then cover with another piece of wax paper and use a rolling pin to flatten them.
When they are completely cool, cut them into bars. Store them in an air-tight container between layers of wax paper.
Rachel's Favorite Granola Bars
Makes one 11"x17" pan
Ingredients (more like a formula):
- 3-4 cups nuts, chopped
- 1/2 cup small grain or large seed, such as buckwheat, quinoa, or sunflower or pumpkin seeds
- 5 cups oats
- 3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1 cup small seeds, such as flax, sesame, hemp, or chia (definitely recommend a mixture)
- 1/2 cup wheat germ (can substitute for more seeds or coconut)
- 1/2-1 cup dried fruit, your preference on type and amount. I prefer 1/2-3/4 cup, usually golden raisins or dried cranberries.
- 2 tablespoons butter, ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, walnut oil, etc., whichever you prefer
- 1 1/2 cups liquid sweetener, such as brown rice syrup, honey, golden syrup, maple syrup, molasses, whatever. I prefer using more than one type of sweetener, as it seems to make a chewier (and more interestingly flavored) bar.
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup nut butter, again, your choice here. I prefer almond as it has a mild flavor and doesn't overshadow the other ingredients.
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Chop all of the nuts, one cup at a time, and place on a 11"x17" baking sheet. Toast them, along with the small grain/large seed, at 350F for 8-10 minutes, stirring once or twice.
- Toast the oats (my oven is a piece of crap, you may be able to toast your nuts and oats at the same time) for another 8-10 minutes. After 3-5 minutes, add the coconut and toast it as well.
- While you're toasting the other ingredients, mix together the small seeds, wheat germ and dried fruit in a very very large (at least 6 quarts) bowl. After the nuts and oats are cooled, add them to the bowl and mix together. Line that same 11"x17" baking sheet with wax paper, and set aside a second piece of wax paper of the same size.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the liquid sweetener and heat until it starts to bubble, then let it simmer for about 2-3 minutes.
- Take the pan off the heat and stir in the salt and the nut butter until it is completely blended. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix very well until thoroughly combined.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread fairly evenly with a spatula, pressing gently. Place the second piece of wax paper on top and use a rolling pin (or your hands, or a wine bottle) to flatten. When they are completely cooled, cut into bars. I cut them into 32 bars, but you could easily cut them smaller if you want bite-sized snacks.
- Store in an air-tight container between layers of wax paper for up to 2 weeks (I have stored them for up to 3 weeks, their taste didn't suffer but they started to dry out).
I love spreadsheets and keep a spreadsheet of all of my commonly used granola bar ingredients and their nutrition facts, acquired from either the package or NutritionData.com. Then I can keep a second spreadsheet with my current combination of ingredients and it calculates everything for me. Very handy.
It also makes it easy to see how to change the ingredients in order to change the nutrition facts, such as using exclusively almonds (instead of other nuts) to increase the protein, cutting out the coconut to reduce the fat, or using more brown rice syrup and less honey to reduce the sugar.
I'm thinking of trying a baked version with pumpkin and 1-2 egg whites. What's your favorite granola bar flavor?