Do you ever stand in the aisle at the supermarket and say, “Hey, I could make that!”
I do that a lot—especially these days, when it seems the price of everything from a box of crackers to a pound of eggplant is starting to mirror the GNP of, say, Algeria. French bread? Sure, I can make that. Chocolate chip cookies? Not a problem. Rotisserie chicken? Light the grill! Granola bars? Uhhhh….
My-husband-the-granola-bar-fanatic is NOT a fan of homemade. Like my dad, who to his dying day preferred Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpets to any fresh-baked treat I’d wave temptingly under his nose, Rick casts a wary glance at baked goods that aren’t sealed in plastic. It’s not a food-safety thing. I mean, the man has been known to eat everything from barely cooked moose meat to moldy American cheese, for crying out loud.
No, it’s more a “homemade means you don’t have enough money for store-bought” thing, which seems to be a leftover credo for many of us forced to eat, say, a liverwurst sandwich made on mom’s homemade rye when our classmates were unwrapping a PB & J on Wonder Bread. Some of us, refugees from the convenience-in-a-can 1950s, learned early that store-bought was cool, and homemade was… well, HOMEMADE. Some of us, unfortunately, have never forgotten that lesson.
So, would I dare to suggest a homemade substitute to the store-bought-granola-bar-fanatic? Not a chance, unless I could convince him that homemade doesn’t mean cheap (inexpensive, yes; cheap, no). And maybe find a way to disguise it in gaudy packaging first. But for those of you who actually LIKE homemade baked goods (the vast majority of you reading this, I assume), give these Chewy Granola Bars a try.
And add another “I can make that!” to your list of accomplishments.
I like to gather my “add-ins” first. Today, I've chosen diced apricots, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and coconut. You'll need 2 to 3 cups of your favorite dried fruits and nuts and seeds.
Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. This recipe calls for sticky bun sugar, which gives the bars a nicely chewy interior and pleasingly crisp edge. If you don't have sticky bun sugar, you can substitute butter, corn syrup, and granulated sugar. The results won't be quite the same, texture-wise, but the bars will be tasty.
Bake for about 25 minutes, till they're bubbly and beginning to brown, especially around the edges. Wait 10 minutes, then loosen the edges thoroughly, and cut into bars. Flop the pan upside-down; the bars should drop out, pretty much in a complete piece. Finish cutting them and separate them completely once they're out of the pan.
P.S. I can hear this question coming... “Can you do something different here to turn these into crunchy (rather than chewy) granola bars?” No. Crunchy bars start with an entirely different recipe, one that probably includes flour and egg. I say probably because I've been dubbing around, but haven't finalized anything, and probably won't anytime soon.
Want to try your hand at developing a crunchy granola bar recipe? Here's where I am right now: 3 cups oats, 1/2 cup King Arthur white wheat flour, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1/3 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons maple syrup, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 large egg, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 cup each raisins, nuts, and sunflower seeds. 9” x 13” pan, 300°F, 1 hour. My take so far is that they're a bit too crumbly; not quite sweet enough; and the raisins burned on top. Take it from here, and post your results in comments; we'll figure this out together!
Read, review, and rate (please!) our recipe for Chewy Granola Bars.
Buy vs. Bake
Buy: Nature Valley Chewy Granola Bars, 34¢/ounce
Bake at home: Chewy granola bars, 27¢/ounce