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Monday, May 5, 2014

Chewy Granola Bars

 Oh my! Oh my, oh my! I just perfected this recipe after a bunch of trial runs... wow! I actually have a whole mess of really awesome recipes to share with you, I've just been having a hard time finding the time to post them. But this one... this one, I've got to make time for right this second. I have to share it with you so that you can make it. Perhaps gift some to your mother later this week, like I am (shhhhh, don't tell!).

You can make a whole bunch of different versions, including a straight up chocolate chip, cinnamon raisin, or - like you see above - an almond joy version. The basic recipe and procedure is the same, you simply change the add-ins. Quick oats and crisp rice cereal make the base, but I like to add some chewier grains as well. You could just use old fashioned oats, but I really found this multi-grained cereal was perfect for this application. It has wheat, barley, rye, and oats.

The first step is to mix the dry ingredients. The hot candy part of this recipe goes quite fast since it only goes to the soft ball stage. If using almonds, I definitely recommend toasting them first. You can do it in the oven or on the stove top. This picture is from a middle batch. I chopped the almonds here, but in the end, I decided I liked to just leave them whole. Again, the joy of this recipe is that the details are up to you!

As for the molding, it will be easiest if you have two pans the same size and of the 9 x 13 persuasion. I have two quarter sheet pans that work perfectly for the task. You'll also need two sheets of parchment. I do not spray the parchment with oil, it isn't necessary and just makes the bars oily. Nobody wants oily. I lay one sheet down, pour in the hot mix, using gloved hands to push it around. I then put another sheet of parchment on top and use the other pan to push down as hard as I can, as evenly as I can. Once it's been pressed, you can remove the top pan, and - if you want - the top parchment. Let sit at room temperature for an hour or two before cutting. 

Chewy Granola Bars
Yield: 20 bars (about 1 x 5 each)

For the syrup:
6 TBS honey
4 TBS salted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

about 5 cups of mix-ins (see below for suggestions)

Have two quarter sheet pans (or similar) and two pieces of parchment available. Mix together your dry mix in ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside. In a heavy sauce pan, heat the butter, honey, and brown sugar. Stir just until the mixture starts to bubble. Cook, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 240 degrees (soft ball). Immediately stir in the vanilla and pour over the dry mix. Stir until somewhat well mixed. Then, with gloved hands, finish mixing by hand and pour into one of the sheet pans lined with one sheet of parchment. Use your hands to spread it out fairly evenly. Lay the other sheet of parchment on top, then place the other sheet pan on top and push as hard as you can to pack the mixture. Let the mixture harden at room temperature for at least an hour before cutting. Cut the bars first along the long axis and then cut each strip into ten bars. Cut bars using a large, sharp knife. You can use a bench scraper if it is sharp, but a large chef's knife works best. Store in an air tight container.

Suggested Mix-In Versions:
*** If you are adding chocolate pieces into the bars, let the mixture cool slightly before adding and pressing into pans.

1 1/2 cup flaked, unsweetened coconut
1 1/2 cup crisp rice cereal
1 cup old fashioned oats or multi-grained cereal
1 cup quick oats
1/2 to 2/3 cup whole, toasted almonds
melted chocolate for spreading over top side before cutting OR 1/2 cup large, dark chocolate pieces***

2 cups quick oats
1 cup old fashioned oats or multi-grained cereal
2 cups crisp rice cereal
1 cup mini-chocolate chips***

2 cups quick oats
1 cup old fashioned oats or multi-grained cereal
2 cups crisp rice cereal
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1 cup raisins

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