Thursday, April 12, 2012

Homemade Chewy (Not Crumbly) Granola Bars

Eco-novice achieves sweet success

At last, I have found a granola bar recipe that my kids love. Good enough that they don't ask me to buy the Trader Joe's granola bars anymore. Good enough that my husband has stopped putting granola bars on the grocery list. I alternate making granola bars with my whole-grain "cookies," so that I always have a delicious kid-friendly snack that's easy to take and eat on-the-go.

I've been looking for the perfect granola bar recipe for a while. Over a period of many months (years?), I've googled, perused, and bookmarked a gazillion recipes. Then I tried the most promising ones. Some recipe authors admitted that their granola bars were crumbly. I did not want crumbly. After making a few duds, I decided to try Bittman's granola bar recipe (the peanut butter variation) which uses granola, oil, honey, and peanut butter.

For the "3 cups not-too-sweet granola" I used my usual granola recipe. The bars were chewy (yes!) but also way too sweet. I tried using significantly less honey, but that made them crumbly. In any granola bar recipe, the sweetener is the glue or binder that holds the granola together. So I made a modified version of my granola recipe with no sweetener, and then used that not-at-all sweet granola to make the granola bars.  I also used a little less peanut butter and honey than the original recipe called for and they are still wonderfully chewy. I've made these with almond butter as well. Note that the recipe below is double the size of the Bittman recipe.

Eco-novices Chewy (Not Crumbly) Granola Bars
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1/3 cup sunflower/ sesame seeds
2/3 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup oil
Bake 20-25 minutes at 325 on half-sheet pan, stirring every 5-10 minutes. Let cool and then put into a large mixing bowl. This gives you 6 cups not-sweet granola.
Combine in a sauce pan and heat until boiling on the stove (don't let it burn!)
1/2 cup oil
1 cup honey
2/3 cup peanut butter (or other nut butter, such as almond)
Pour boiling mixture into bowl of 6 cups granola (entire recipe above). Mix well. Push into greased 9x13 pan (I use butter to grease). Use a spatula to press down and spread evenly. Cool in refrigerator. After a few hours and once completely cooled, take out of fridge and let them warm up a bit so you can easily slice with a knife or bench scraper into bars. Store in air-tight container.
I store mine in Pyrex in the fridge with wax paper between the layers (see photo above). I also always keep 3 or 4 in a small reusable container in the fridge, so that I have something I can quickly grab and take with me to the park or other outing. In my experience, they keep for at least 2 weeks in the fridge.

As you might imagine, they are also just delicious with chocolate chips thrown in (while hot, if you want melted chocolate mixed throughout or once cooled a bit you can put chips on top). I consider the chocolate version to be a sort of homemade candy bar. Dried fruit could easily be added in as well (stir into granola mix before adding hot liquid mixture).

Do you make granola bars? What is your favorite recipe?


Stephanie G. said...

What kind of oil did you use. Do you think coconut oil would work?

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

I use organic canola oil, but i have thought of using coconut oil. I will try it one of these days. It would definitely work for making the granola (I imagine it would make it crispier -- yum!), and I think it would probably work for the liquid hot stuff to bind the granola into bars too. Let me know if you try it!

The Greening Of Westford said...

I love making homemade granola bars. Like you, I have searched for years. I have finally perfected mine and they are quite similar to yours! I would like to try yours though, since I am intrigued by the "granola". Mine have brown rice krispies to lighten the texture a bit. My kids LOVE them! They usually don't make it to the fridge for storage.

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

Greening of Westford, Bittman has another granola recipe that uses krispies, but I don't want to buy those -- everything in mine I can buy in the bulk section. The reason mine last 2 weeks is that I dole them out. We eat them 1) on outings, 2) in the backyard -- this is how I often get my kids to eat outside and 3) for dessert so that they'll eat their other food first. I hope you'll post your recipe on your blog and link it up later this month (or just leave the recipe in the comments of the linky post).

The Greening Of Westford said...

I'll have to look for Bittman's other recipe. I wish I could buy more in bulk :( I get the brown rice krispies at Whole Foods.

I just tried your recipe! Love it!!! I did have to sub. coconut oil for the oil (in both the granola and binder) didn't have anything else in the house. And I added 1/2 cup mini choc. chips They are NOT crumbly - my recipe is. They are a bit greasy - maybe because of the coconut oil? Or maybe I didn't wait long enough???But I can deal with it because they are delicious! Thank you so much. I will work on my recipe and post later this month.

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

Mine are greasy too. Between the oil and the PB, I think they're bound to be greasy. Maybe with a bit less PB they wouldn't be so greasy, but I don't really mind the oiliness -- I always store them in glass or stainless steel - it would be a problem if i stored them in my reusable (nylon/cotton) bags, but I don't usually. Here is a link to the other Bittman recipe:

Melissa said...

My husband is allergic to coconut. Do you have any replacement suggestions for the granola portion?

s.e. said...

Those sound delicious. But where do you live that kids are allowed to take peanut products to school? Here all elementary schools, the building where my daughter takes ballet etc. are peanut free:( We use granola bars as take along snack to many places we can't take peanut products.

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

My kids aren't in school yet, although they will be this fall. I wonder if there is a peanut-free policy at our future elem school. Could you use another nut butter? I've made them with almond butter, which is not as sweet as PB. This recipe is based on the PB version of Bittman's recipe. Also, his original recipe has no PB but brown sugar. You could try his original recipe instead if you want no nuts (I guess you'd need to take the nuts out of the granola too to be nut free...)

Anonymous said...

This is similar to the bars I make too. But I don't bother with making granola first. I melt coconut oil (or butter) with almond butter and maple syrup (or honey), and then just stir in oats, nuts, seeds, and whatever else is around. I sometimes stir in vanilla or spices too.

Kristina (The Greening Of Westford) said...

to s.e. - our school snacks need to be nut-free as well, so if I make them with peanut butter they can't go to school as snacks. They can go for lunch though.
I have also made them with soy nut butter with success - and they can go to school! Provided I skip the almonds too.

Paige @ Baby Dust Diaries said...

I wanted to let you know I used your recipe as inspiration for my spin off! Sweet & Salty Cherry Almond Bars.

Thanks for the great recipe!


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