I love my homemade granola. I love it on fruit. I love it on yogurt. I love it as a mid-afternoon snack instead of cookies. My husband Daniel, I think, loves it even more than I do. He eats it by the handful, straight out of the granola jar. He gobbles it in bowls of coconut milk. He eats it as fast as I can make it, and I make it often.
Daniel also has something of an addiction to Clif Bars. He'll eat two bars every day, easy. And while there are certainly less wholesome snacks to crave (my current overwhelming desire for spoonfuls from the jar of artisanal dulce de leche beckoning me from the pantry springs to mind), Clif Bars, though organic, are still a highly processed food. I prefer my hubby eat something that was made with love in our own kitchen, without strange ingredients such as soy protein isolate. I'm old-fashioned like that.
So I started experimenting with homemade granola bars. I adapted my olive oil granola recipe, with pumpkin seeds, dried cherries, coconut chips, and sliced almonds, and added almond butter, honey, and more oil to bind it together. I pressed the sticky mixture into a parchment lined baking dish and baked it until it was a lovely, Clif Bar-esque golden brown.
It looked beautiful until I tried to cut it into bars. The whole thing crumbled into one sticky, healthful, mess. Undeterred, I tweaked the recipe, doubling up on the almond buter, all the better to bind that granola goodness.
Double almond butter did work a little better, the bars crumbled less, though it tasted of (big surprise) nothing but almond butter. Why go to the work of making granola bars? Just sprinkle some oats in your almond butter jar and call it a day.
So it was back to the tweaking board. This time I brought the almond butter back down and added a cup of dates which I pureed in the food processor along with the other ingredients. Also, I kneaded the wet ingredients into the dry. It may be my imagination, but I think that helped the bars stay together, too.
After baking, the bars were nice and golden brown, yet still chewy and a little sticky, in a good way - kind of like a Clif Bar, but so much better. Since they weren't at all crunchy, I wouldn't really call them granola bars even if they were made from pretty much the same ingredients as granola. It's just a bit misleading. So instead, I'll just say that I'm happy to send Daniel off to work with a Chewy Maple Date Oat Bar in one hand, cup of coffee in the other, ready to take on the world.
PS He still eats Clif bars, but less often than he did before.
Chewy Maple Date Oat Bars (aka, Soft Granola Bars)
Makes about 15 bars
2 cups rolled oats (6.3 ounces, 180 grams)
3/4 cup hulled pumpkin seeds (3.5 ounces, 100 grams)
3/4 cup sliced almonds (2.4 ounces, 70 grams)
3/4 cup coconut chips (1.4 ounces, 40 grams)
1/2 cup dried cherries (65 grams)
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed (2 ounces, 55 grams)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 cup pitted dates (5.3 ounces, 151 grams)
1/2 cup almond butter (5 ounces, 144 grams)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (3.5 ounces, 100 grams)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (2.7 ounces, 80 grams)
1/4 cup tablespoons honey (2.8 ounces, 80 grams)
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line an 8- by 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper, with the paper going up the sides of the pan.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, pumpkin seeds, almonds, coconut chips, dried cherries, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
3. Place the dates in a food processor and puree until smooth. Add the almond butter, olive oil, maple syrup, and honey. Continue to puree until a smooth, thick paste forms. Scrape the paste into the bowl with the dry ingredients and knead the mixture until it’s completely mixed.
4. Press the granola mixture into the prepared pan and bake until the top is dark golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes, it will still be soft to the touch but will harden as it cools. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely, then cut into bars.