After our international move and my new found time for baking, one of the things I started doing – and feeling really quite smug about – was making my own granola. It really is the easiest thing ever but makes you feel like you’ve really nailed it in the kitchen. I was completely inspired by the Relentless Launderer, who writes a very funny and clever blog and who also provided the basics for a non-recipe recipe, that is the general guidelines for homemade granola. You can find her guide here. I even copied her IKEA containers and feel like this whole enterprise fits my smug-and-lazy recipe requirements very nicely.
Anyway, taking this a step further, I was on the hunt for a good chewy granola bar recipe that the oldest could take to school, so no nuts involved. I tried a few recipes but most of them were too crumbly to hold together properly in a lunchbox for school.
This recipe, though, is great. It’s by far the best recipe I’ve tried – I make no excuses, it’s pretty sugary – but I’m worried that decreasing the sugar would ruin the general chewy-flapjack situation that leaves you with such a perfect consistency. Also they taste really good sugary.
They aren’t All Bad though, with sunflower seeds and oats and a spoonful or two of ground flax seed / hemp powder / as much as you can sneak in without your children noticing. So not the empty calories of a chocolate bar (the empty but immensely satisfying calories of a chocolate bar, I am not THAT smug).
This recipe is an adapted version of the original that you can find here. Like the granola recipe above, I think you can adapt the ingredients pretty endlessly as long as you keep the general ratio of dry-to-sticky ingredients the same.
2 cups Rolled Oats – I use a mix of old fashioned and instant oats
1/2 cup dessicated / shredded coconut
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, roughly chopped (finely chopped If you have someone who will flip out if they see an identifiable seed)
1/3cup honey, golden syrup, maple syrup – mix of your choice (but bear in mind that maple syrup has less sticking power)
1tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup butter/margarine
1/4 cup caster sugar (I warned you, this is not one for the sugar averse)
Couple of handfuls mini chocolate chips (please see above) (and/or a handful or two of chopped cranberries/raisins/other dried fruit as acceptable in your household – not in mine)
Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 180C/350f
Put oats and coconut on a tray and lightly toast in the oven for 8-10mins. Transfer to large mixing bowl.
Chop sunflower seeds and add to the bowl.
Put honey/golden syrup/maple syrup mix, vanilla extract, butter, caster sugar and salt (everything apart from the chocolate) in a pan on the hob, at a medium heat and melt / mix together.
Pour melted mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients. Stir until all dry ingredients are coated.
Then get a square baking tin (mine is 23cm and may actually belong to my sister – the jig is up), and very roughly line with a piece of baking parchment. As in, no butter needed and i normally just tear a piece that is a good enough fit – if it doesn’t quite get to each corner then that’s not going to cause you major problems.
Add the chocolate chips / any dried fruit to the mix and stir.
Pour the mix into the pan and press down until things are fairly evenly spread around. Then – the critical juncture and a tip from the original recipe comments – get another sheet of baking parchment, lay over the top of the mix and press down for 2 minutes. The more you press the firmer the granola bars will be. This time I actually went to the lengths of using the side of a mug to press down even more and I think it made a difference in the lunchbox-ability of the bars.
Cover with cling wrap, and refrigerate for 2hrs (or forget about them overnight, both seem fine)
Turn out onto a chopping board and cut into your desired dimensions. You can freeze them! Or just pop them in a sealed container and watch them disappear almost immediately. Either way, a good Smug factor.