Monday, 13 July 2015

All-New Granola Bars

Firstly, my apologies for the lack of posts recently. My father died recently...expected, but very sudden at the end...and I found that amongst other things, the immediate grief really sapped my creativity. I've been ok just keeping things together...baking brownies as usual...keeping up with orders and even the Farmer's Market. But any new ideas just didn't seem to flow at all. Happily, this was a temporary state and I now feel more myself a couple of months on - so expect to see plenty of updates !

Granola/energy bars are one of those troublesome things to bake, I find. Not because they're difficult to make at all....throw a load of ingredients into a bowl, mix, bake and they always taste delicious! But cooking professionally is different. At home, no one minds if their cake disintegrates on the plate into a heap of long as it can still be scooped up and eaten, it's all good. But if you're buying that piece of cake, you expect it to look perfect all the way through - quite rightly, when you're spending good money on it. And here is where the problem lies. Flapjacks and granola-type bars are notorious for falling apart when cut and crumbling into an oaty heap. It's something I've battled and puzzled over for years!

Well, at last, I think I've found the way forward. I have done so much research on this topic and found  useful information in posts by Heidi Swanson on her fabulous blog 101 Cookbooks & Deb Perelman on hers, Smitten Kitchen (both are wonderful for so much more too...if you love cooking in general and have a few hours to spare, visit either or both and get lost in them!) These, together with my original and much tweaked recipe has given me All-New Granola Bars that are luscious, chewy, fresh-tasting and - most importantly - stay together when cut!! The secret is that I made the mistake of increasing the fat content, believing that this would stick the ingredients together. This is, in fact, what makes them crumble, so too much is fatal! Water is the magic ingredient...

The measurements are a bit of a combination at the moment...when they are standardised for the book I'm planning, they will be one or the other...but at the moment they are a combination of cups and metric (I have a plain metal set of US cups, which I'd really recommend you invest in if you love baking...they open up a whole new world, literally!) so do forgive me.

All-New Sugar Moon Granola Bars

1 & 2/3 cups porridge oats
1/3 cup oat flour (just whizz porridge oats in a food processor until they become a powder)
1/2 cup bran cereal (I use All Bran)
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50g pumpkin seeds
50g sunflower seeds
1/4 cup broken pecan pieces
3/4 cup whole almonds, roughly chopped (skin-on or blanched are both fine)
3/4 cup pitted dates, soaked in boiling water (I just use enough to cover them)
50g flaked coconut (you can use desiccated if that's all you can find, but the unsweetened flakes are in many supermarkets and give a more interesting texture)
1/2 cup rice malt syrup OR honey
1/4 cup soft brown sugar (you can omit this if you like...I find they are sweet enough without)
1 tbsp pure organic coconut oil
60g unsalted butter
2 tbsp water (I use the soaking water from the dates)
1 tsp pure vanilla powder, or natural extract

Line a 23cm/9"square baking tin with parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 170c/325f

In a large bowl, combine the oats, oatflour, bran cereal, salt and cinnamon.

Put the seeds, nuts and coconut flakes onto a large flat baking sheet and toast in the preheating oven for 10-15 minutes until starting to turn golden brown.You need to keep an eye on them to check they don't burn, and stir a few times to distribute the heat. Remove from the oven and add to the dry ingredients in the bowl.

Gently melt together the butter, coconut oil, syrup or honey & sugar - if using - either in a small saucepan over low heat or in a microwave. When the fat has melted, remove from the heat and pour over the dry ingredients. Add the drained dates and the water and mix really well.

 It should look something like can add another tablespoon of water if you don't feel it's damp enough...
 Tip into the prepared tin...
 Pack down well using a flexible spatula...
 and smooth the surface...
 Bake for approximately 30 minutes. The top should be golden brown and fairly firm to touch, but not have a 'dried out' feeling. Remove from the oven and leave to cool thoroughly in the tin. You can refrigerate once cool, to really firm them up. Remove from the tin using the parchment paper to help you and,with a sharp knife, cut into approximately 12 bars (or as many as you like!)
 Store in an airtight box in the fridge for best results...but anywhere cool will do. They'll keep for at least a week like this.
Brilliant for lunch boxes, picnics or - as my great friend Charlie does - as the ultimate running fuel!

Hope you enjoy them....thanks so much for reading, and visit again soon for more Sugar Moon magic!