Monday, March 15, 2010

Granola Bars: A Jumping-Off Point

At first glance, "granola bar" might signify only one thing: a bar made of granola. A closer look at the snack aisle in your local grocery store, however, shows that this "bar of granola" can be chewy, crunchy, made with dried fruit, drizzled with sugary glaze, coated in condensed milk (to create a cereal bar), or chock full of chocolate chips, to name just a few options.
As big-time granola bar companies continue to come up with new and adventurous ways to reinvent the granola bar, they have to be careful not to stray too much from the essence of it: granola and all of the other ingredients of varying shapes, textures, and sizes that complement it. Luckily, this is not a hard thing to do. Granola is, in many ways, the perfect base off of which to build a snack.

It was with this idea in mind that I tried out a recipe for homemade granola bars. The recipe is easy to manipulate and an ideal base for experimentation; once you have the essentials, you can add or omit whatever you choose. As it was my first time making the bars, I stuck to the recipe for the most part, occasionally changing the amounts of each ingredient that I used and adding a little extra brown sugar to prevent the honey from overwhelming the flavor of the bars. The result? A unique, homey, and oddly rustic blend of flavors compacted into each 2 x 4 inch bar. No high-fructose corn syrup necessary.

Recipe (courtesy of Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa):


  • 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

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 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.

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