Monday, August 2, 2010

Granola bars

Granola bars

There are two reactions I love to hear from someone I'm baking for. The first is "wow, this is awesome!" The second, which comes much more rarely, is "you made this? I didn't know you could make this?"

I was thinking the other day of things that I could make for a friend of mine who's a new mom. Usually, I make a lot of things that tend to be not-so-good for you -- in fact, I'm known more for chocolate-chip cookies among my friends than anything else. But chocolate's probably not that great for nursing moms, 'cause they probably shouldn't have a lot of caffeine. But what would be good for a nursing mom? Foods you can eat with one hand while holding the baby with the other. Foods that are actually sort of good for you, to keep her strength up and the baby's, too. But something that's actually tasty.

Then it hit me: Granola bars. They're tasty snacks, and they're sort of good for you, too, with grains and fruit and nuts. Perfect. And they got the second reaction from the new mom: "You made granola bars? I didn't know you could make those. I thought those just came from factories." (Well, usually they do... but why buy something processed and full of chemicals when you can make it and know what's in it? Wait 'til I get around to making Twinkies -- I'll have to remember to send her some. :) )

Granola Bars
From Smitten Kitchen
1 2/3 c quick oats
1/2 c sugar
1/3 c oat flour (can be found in the health-food section of the grocery store, or substitute oat bran or wheat germ, or grind up some oats in a blender or food processor to make your own)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (or more, to taste)
2 to 3 c dried fruits and nuts (your choice -- I used raisins and slivered almonds)
1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter (optional -- I left this out)
1 tsp vanilla
6 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 c honey, maple syrup or corn syrup
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1 tbsp water

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-by-8 pan in one direction with parchment paper, letting it go up the sides. Lightly grease the parchment and the rest of the inside of the pan.
2. Stir together all of the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts.
3. In another, bigger bowl, whisk together the vanilla, butter, liquid sweeteners and water.
4. Pour the dry stuff into the wet stuff and stir (adding the peanut butter if you're using it) until everything's moist and crumbly.
5. Spread the mixture in the pan and press it down, hard, a lot, so it's really packed down good and tight. (You can use a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap to avoid getting your hands all sticky.)
6. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until they're brown around the edges and a little bit browned on top.
7. Cool completely on a rack before cutting, overnight if you can, or in the fridge. (If they're not totally cool, they won't cut cleanly. If you're in a hurry, you can also pull them out of the pan a few minutes after they come out of the oven using the parchment sling -- that'll help them cool faster.)

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