Monday, September 23, 2013

Granola Bars

I know, I'm kind of on a granola kick lately, but who doesn't love granola?  I have tried SO many granola bar recipes and failed SO many times.  Some ended up as granola since they didn't stay together at all, some tasted more like candy bars, some tasted like cardboard, and some tasted like bricks.  But these!  These finally are a triumph.  They are chock full of deliciousness - oats, almonds, coconut, dried fruit in whatever variety you like, and just enough honey to make them stick together wonderfully!  I used a combo of dried dates, peaches (home-dried!), and cranberries, and loved the flavors.  But you could definitely do apricots, cherries, blueberries, or whatever else floats your boat.  I would probably always use dates as part of the combo since they make such a good glue and sweetener, but the rest you could play around with.  Let me know what you use!  Enjoy!

Granola Bars
Makes 16 bars

2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1 c. sliced almonds
1 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
2/3 c. honey
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 c. chopped dried fruit (I used a combo of chopped dates, peaches, and cranberries)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9x13 baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

Toss the oats, almonds, and coconut on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.  Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

While the mixture is still warm, stir in the honey, vanilla, and salt until the mixture is well coated, then stir in the dried fruit.  Pour the mixture into your prepared 9x13 pan and PRESS it in tightly.  You can use wet hands to do this more effectively, or if you have another 9x13 dish (or smaller), use that on top to really press down.  Put your back into it!  Press it in as tightly as possible - this helps them stay together.

Bake for 25-30 minutes at 300 degrees, until lightly golden brown.  Important! - let cool 2-3 hours before cutting into squares.  You will be tempted to do this early, but you don't want a crumbly mess.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for a week or two, or store in the freezer.  They will stay more crisp in the freezer.

Source: Adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted from Ina Garten

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