Wednesday, 19 August 2015
On Tuesday I travelled to Newcastle, a port town 160km or so north of Sydney. My train left at 7.15am. The friend I was meeting was making me breakfast on arrival at 10am. I didn't want to set the alarm so early to make myself a pre-breakfast breakfast. I didn't want to spoil my actual breakfast with some overpriced, underbaked muffin from Central Station. So I packed a granola bar, for a snack as good as the view.
Sure, I could have bought one, but making them (the day before) had the advantage of using up all the bits and pieces of dried fruit and nuts I had in my pantry. Plus, these taste way better than any that come out of a box. You might say, on reading the recipe, that that's because of the butter and sugar involved, to which I'd say - wouldn't you rather know what you were eating rather than puzzle over some indecipherable chemical on the side of a packet? You might say, don't those mystery ingredients make them last longer? But I'd say the homemade sort freeze beautifully and defrost quickly. Not that you should rush to that storage solution - if you're a regular snacker, these will last at least a week in an airtight container out of the fridge. Provided you don't eat them all at once, as you may well be tempted to do.
You can use whatever combination of fruit and nuts you like. In this batch I tumbled in almonds, pepitas, dried apricots, dates, shredded coconut and raisins. The chunkier ingredients I chopped roughly. Feel free to improvise any way you like. Swap fruit for dark chocolate or cacao nibs, nuts for chia or sesame seeds. Put in peanut/almond butter or leave it out. It's entirely up to you. And that's the best reason of all to give them a go.
Adapted from a recipe by Deb Perelman's ever-reliable blog Smitten Kitchen
US measurements are ever so slightly different to Australian/UK ones. I've reproduced the original recipe below but have in brackets made allowances for the variation, when relevant.
1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups dried fruits and nuts (total of 10 to 15 ounces)
1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter (I used almond butter) (optional)
6 tablespoons melted butter (about 4 Australian tablespoons)
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons (about 1.5 Australian tablespoons) maple syrup
1 tablespoon water (just a little less than an Australian tablespoon)
Preheat the oven to 350 deg F / 180 deg C.
Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray.
Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, liquid sweeteners and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry (and nut butter, if you’re using it) until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan. (A piece of plastic wrap can help with this, as you press down on the back of it.)
Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges. They’ll still seem soft and almost underbaked when you press into the center of the pan but do not worry, they’ll set completely once completely cool.
Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. (Alternately, after about 20 minutes you can use your parchment “sling” to lift and remove the bars, and place them in their paper on the rack to cool the rest of the way. This can speed the process up.)
Once cool, a serrated knife (or bench knife) to cut the bars into squares. If bars seem crumbly, chill the pan of them further in the fridge for 30 minutes which will fully set the “glue”, then cut them cold. To store, seal in an airtight container.