I may have mentioned before that C is a mountain biker. Oh yes. Most Saturdays, at the crack of dawn, while I am burrowing farther into a warn duvet, relishing blissful weekend sleep-ins, C bounds out of bed ready to take on dirt and heat and arduous uphill climbs. How different are we. Just typing the words “uphill climbs” is leaving me out of breath.
I do think though, in theory, that mountain biking is a fantastic activity. It combines exercise, the outdoors, and camaraderie. You get to see new places and make new friends (as C has since he started). Unlike biking on a machine in the gym, you are actually going somewhere. Hell, you are sometimes even blazing your own trail or taking the path less travelled. In theory.
In actuality though, I would probably not get very far on a bike whose seat was too high for my feet to touch the ground.
Now bike ride snacks…that I can do. For that reason, I have been looking around for good granola bar recipes. The ones we get in the health food stores are a bit pricey, and I like the thought of C having something homemade and healthful to sustain him on his ride (instead of those weird gels they suck out of a foil pack…I know they are supposed to be small enough for a biker to tote and pack a big dose of energy but still, eew.). Rescue came by way of Smitten Kitchen and the most wonderful granola bars I have ever had.
Thick, Chewy Granola Bars
(from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from King Arthur Flour – I added my notes below)
- 1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar (I used 1/2 cup and it was just right for me)
- 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 (I left this out)
- 2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts (total of 10 to 15 ounces)*
- 1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter (optional – I used peanut butter and I loved it…I urge you to use your favorite nut butter and if I had any say in the matter this would so not be optional)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional, Deb was not convinced the flavor came through so I just left it out)
- 6 tablespoons melted butter
- 1/4 cup honey, maple syrup or corn syrup (I used Agave syrup)
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup (see Debs’ Note below)
- 1 tablespoon water
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides (I completely lined the pan). 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 vanilla, melted butter or oil, liquid sweeteners, and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry (and peanut butter, if you’re using it – Yes! Please use 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 – I used a spatula.)
- Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges (mine took 45 minutes) — don’t be afraid to get a little color on the tops too. They’ll still seem soft and almost under baked when you press into the center of the pan (Yup...I can attest to that) but do not worry (I worried, but I should have listened to Deb), they’ll set completely once completely cool (and wonderfully so!).
- 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. – I ended up doing this because I had to slice and photograph them before the sun set!)
- Once cool, a serrated knife (or bench knife – I used a bench knife…I love my 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, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container. In humid weather, it’s best to store bars in the refrigerator (Thank you Deb for the humid weather tip!). They also freeze well.
*Suggestions: Dried cranberries, apricots, pecans, sunflower seeds, coconut, walnuts, sesame seeds, pepitas, dried apples or even chocolate chips. Deb’s mix. My mix: 1 cup walnuts (chopped), 1 cup macadamia nuts (chopped), 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup chopped dried figs, ¼ cup wheat germ.
Deb’s Note: The original recipe calls for something called “sticky bun sugar” which can be made at home with sugar, butter and corn syrup. It is for this reason that corn syrup is listed within one ingredient but also separately, and I used all butter rather than two different fats. Whether the corn syrup can be entirely replaced with honey or maple syrup or the butter can be entirely replaced with a healthier oil is worth auditioning, I just didn’t. Yet.
I really liked the mix I used, although I am definitely looking forward to experimenting. I’ll try pecans next time, and maybe some chocolate chips (MMM!). I have to say though, I loved (very much so in fact) the dried figs here. Baked to a sweet stickiness, their seeds providing an added crunch, they were magical, just magical. Granola bar goddesses. I’d be very sad to make a version without them.
C gave them the thumbs up and they will be accompanying him on his next ride. Me? I’ll be having my share while curled on our sofa (the brown one not the white one!) with a good book :)