Chewy Granola Bars

I’m never buying another granola bar. Goodbye, Quaker Chewy. So long, Nature Valley. Adieu, Kashi.

I made homemade granola bars this past weekend, and now there’s no turning back.

Because these are good. And so easy. Sinfully easy. Practically no measuring required. And the ingredients can change depending on what you happen to be hoarding in the depths of your pantry. No lie.

Those dried cherries that you were supposed to use to make cherry almond biscotti? That bag of walnuts that got lost behind the cocoa powder and granulated sugar? The half-bag of flaked coconut that’s been hiding in there for months (because honestly, when do you ever really need a full bag of coconut?)? And what about that handful of chocolate chips leftover from yesterday’s late-night chocolate binge?

Throw them in. All of them.

You can thank me later for helping you clean out your pantry.

Chewy Granola Bars
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Active time: 10 minutes
Start to finish: 1 hour
Makes  about 1 dozen

Ingredients
1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
1/2 cup granulated sugar (more or less to taste)
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
2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts*
1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup honey, maple syrup or corn syrup
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon water

*Suggestions: dried pineapple, apricots, cranberries, cherries, apples, blueberries, Craisins, golden raisins, pecans, sunflower seeds, coconut, flaxseed, walnuts, wheat germ, almonds, sesame seeds, pepitas, or chocolate chips.
My mix: 1/4 cup raisins, 1/2 cup golden raisins, 1/4 cup dried apples, 1/4 cup dried apricots, 1/4 cup dried peaches, 1/4 cup dried plums, 3/4 cup dried cherries, 1/4 cup dried blueberries, 1/4 cup pecans

Directions

When it comes to granola, what you’re looking for is a basic proportion of chunky (nuts, dried fruit) to sticky (syrups, sugar, butter or oils). Once you’ve got that down, you can try pretty much anything you’d like.  You can use all dried fruit or you can use any combination of dried fruit and nuts in your 2 to 3 cup mix. The cinnamon is optional. The vanilla is optional. You can toss in things like sunflower seeds or flaked coconut. The possibilities are endless!

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. Lightly coat the parchment paper and the exposed pan with a non-stick spray.

Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, melt the butter; then, whisk in the vanilla, liquid sweeteners, and water. Mix the wet ingredients with the dry until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Add in the peanut butter, and mix until combined. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing firmly to ensure the mixture is molded to the shape of the pan.

Bake the bars 30 to 40 minutes, or until they are brown around the edges and just beginning to brown on the top.

Completely cool the bars in their pan on a cooling rack.

Once cool, use the “sling” you made with the parchment paper to remove the bars from the pan to a flat surface. Use a serrated knife to cut the bars into squares. If bars seem crumbly, chill them further in the fridge for 30 minutes, then cut them cold. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container and store in a cool place (they’ll last longer if stored in the refrigerator). These also freeze well.

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