Crunchy granola bars or chewy granola bars? That is the question. With the two following recipes you can have it either way. My friend Toby said the crunchy ones had a better texture, but the chewy ones were better flavored. I took some to my good friends Bill and Jean, and Bill showed slight preference for the crunchy and Jean, with all 30-something of her sweet teeth in agreement, liked both.
The crunchies came from Rosa Thompson of Holden who observed, “As long as these aren’t over-baked and are completely cooled before cutting, they won’t crumble.”
The chewies came from Judyth Herrick in Sedgewick whose grandchildren all love them. She wrote, “My oldest granddaughter’s roommates at college want me to make them all the time.” She didn’t say how often she obliged them but since the bars require only assembling, no baking, she could whip up a batch pretty quickly, as you could, too. If you are a busy parent, the chewy bars would take you next to no time to throw together and will give you lots of bars.
Neither of these recipes are hard to use or particularly time-consuming, and both come close to commercial bars in flavor and ingredients. At the price of granola bars, around a buck or two depending on the quality you choose, these homemade ones are terrifically economical; a cost-saving, homemade addition to the lunch bag or after school snack.
In making them, I figured out that the principle behind them was roughly this: you need about two to three cups each of rolled oats and crispy rice cereal — you know, snap, crackle and pop — which, thank goodness, is still mostly made of rice even though sugar is the second most prominent ingredient. Then you add a combination of nuts or seeds, and dried fruit such as raisins or dried cranberries. Then you glue it all together with a mixture of butter or nut butter, sugar and honey, which are cooked enough to make a sticky mix.
Judyth’s original recipe called for toasted oats cereal but I substituted rolled oats which I lightly toasted in a pan on top of the stove.
It occurred to me that there was lots of room here for individual expression, such as adding chocolate chips or using a favorite ready-made granola in place of the other ingredients. Rosa noted that you can use coconut as one of the add-ins. Bars made with sesame or pumpkin seeds would be good. I used pecans and almonds in Rosa’s recipe and stuck to the sunflower seeds in Judyth’s recipe, though I substituted dried cranberries for half of the raisins. Judyth uses one cup each of golden raisins and dried cranberries. If you had a favorite commercial granola bar, you could look to see what was in it and fiddle with the recipes below to replicate it.
Judyth further advised, “I cover my hand with a sandwich bag to press the mixture into the pan. Also, cut the bars while they are still a bit warm as it makes it easier to slice through them when completely cooled.”
Chewy Granola Bars from Judyth
Makes about two and a half dozen bars, depending on size
3 cups crispy rice cereal
3 cups toasted oats
2 cups raisins
2 cups peanut butter
½ cup sunflower seeds
1 cup honey
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine cereals, raisins and seeds in a large bowl. In a heavy saucepan, bring the honey and sugar to a boil for one minute. Add peanut butter and vanilla, stirring until the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and stir into cereal mixture. Press into greased 15-by-10-inch pan. Slice when cool and store in covered container.
Crunchy Granola Bars from Rosa
Makes 16-24 bars, depending on size
2 cups crispy rice cereal
2 cups toasted oats
1 cup dried fruit
½ cup chopped almonds or other nuts
¼ cup flour
¼ teaspoon cinnamon, optional
⅓ cup sugar
⅓ cup honey
½ cup melted butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan and line with waxed or parchment paper. Put the cereal, oats, fruit, nuts, flour, sugar, honey and spice into a large bowl. Pour the melted butter over all and mix thoroughly. Press into the baking pan and bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Cool completely on a rack before cutting.
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