I’m about to hit the road to spend a highly anticipated vacation week with some friends in the Southwest. It promises to be a week filled with hugs, hot tubs, and desert hikes. I wanted to bring a gift for my hosts that screamed THE MIDWEST but local beer violated all sorts of TSA rules and, let’s be serious, would be really heavy to lug around various airports. As a backup plan, I made granola bars…in the Midwest. Not the same thing but it’s still a tasty treat that will be transported with love. AND instead of clanking around and being a general hassle in our day-packs these bars will make us strong because they’re filled with all sorts of good-for-you oats, nuts, and fruits.
These granola bars are of the cakey variety. To get cakey, you need some fat. Peanut butter and coconut oil will do the trick. You can also add any liquid sweetener at this point- I used maple syrup.
Mix your melted sugar/oil mixture with the other liquids you’re including. In the glass bowl I’ve got applesauce, vanilla, and ground flax seed (which mixes in more evenly with the liquids because it’s finely ground).
In a separate bowl, prep your oats, fruit, nuts, and spices.
Combine the wet and the dry…
…and pour it all out in to an 8″x8″ pan lined with parchment paper. Make sure to pat the mixture down to create a dense, granola-y block. There’s nothing in this recipe to make the bar pop up as it bakes so the ingredients pretty much look the same when they go in as when they come out.
Bake at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes. When it’s done, wait to cut the block up into bars until the pan is totally cool. Seriously, WAIT. The warmer it is the more crumbly the insides. Because I have no patience, I tried cutting when the pan was “kinda warm”, “just noticeably warm”, and “totally cool”. Results were increasingly better with time.
“Cakey” Granola Bars
Recipe adapted from the Kitchn. Ps. if the only nuts you can find happen to be a mixed bag of salted pepitas and sunflower seeds (because you moved home and people in your parents town aren’t known for valuing a low-sodium diet) enjoy how little you’re now paying for groceries and simply opt out of including the extra salt.
1/4 cup coconut oil
3 tablespoons peanut butter
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1 1/4 cups apple sauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped to raisin size
1/4 cup pepitas
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line an 8″x8″ baking pan with parchment paper.
Over low heat, combine the coconut oil, peanut butter, and maple syrup and stir until melted. Remove from heat. Lick your spoon because it tastes delicious. Add the ground flax seeds, apple sauce, and vanilla, and stir to combine.
In a large bowl, combine the oats with the dried fruit, seeds, cinnamon, and salt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.
Pour the mixture to the baking pan and flatten it down to create a dense bar with a flat surface.
Bake until golden, about 45 minutes. Let the giant bar cool completely in the pan before lifting it out and cutting it up. An 8″x8″ pan cuts nicely into 12 single-serving bars.
Wrap individual bars tightly for transporting or store them in an airtight container. They should last for about a week in the refrigerator.