Hi, friends. I’ve been away for awhile, and I’ve missed you. I couldn’t stay away forever, and hope that 2015 will be a true new beginning, with more posts and sharing in this space. In the meantime, if you want to catch up with me in “realtime,” follow along on Instagram for the meal-to-meal update of what’s simmering in the kitchen, and tell me what you’d like to see me share here. What brought me back? Granola Bars. Of course.
Granola bars are an essential nutrient in this house – easy to grab in the morning on your way out the door for a quick breakfast, or to slip into a bag for snacks while traveling. I’m endlessly tweaking, trying new flavor combinations, spices, sweeteners and nut butters to stick ‘em together, but I get bored…even with four recipes already posted here!
Earlier this fall, my girl Johanna, from the fabulous DeFloured Bakery, gifted me some granola clusters leftover from her experiments with making granola bars. As we were discussing technique, materials and “goo-stickiness-factor,” she mentioned that she was only using olive oil and maple syrup for the fat and sweetener, and that the combination made for a more savory bar with the sweetness muted, even though there was the same amount of maple syrup as I would use in sugars and honey in my recipes. Then I tasted the granola, and I was SOLD. I had to get back in the game and start playing.
Johanna’s granola clusters had the same savory crispness of my favorite granola recipe from Molly – with the combination of maple and olive oil making for a very satisfying, not too sweet granola that is irresistible for snacking or scattering atop a small bowl of greek yogurt. I wanted to achieve that same crispness that the olive oil brings, but in bar form.
This would prove to be a great challenge, as the oil being a more slippery partner for the thinner maple syrup, my initial forays resulted in delicious granola, but not the sturdy, yet crispy bars I was seeking. A few lucky friends have been sampling the evolution of this recipe for weeks as I went from loose granola, to fragile bars, to an almost-there bar that just didn’t quite hold up to transport in my lunchbag without crumbling. Today, I got the mix right, and now it’s time to release it to you.
The finished bars are less spiced than my cocoa granola bars or smoked paprika bars, as I wanted the nuts and deep savoriness of the maple and olive oil to be the star here, so I just warmed things up a touch with a little garam masala, cinnamon, allspice and black pepper for a hint of mystery.
Coconut Garam Masala Granola Bars
Makes 24 Bars (4 rows, 6 bars per row)
- 2 ½ cups gluten free rolled oats (I use Trader Joe’s)
- 1 ½ c mixed seeds and nuts (I used a mix of sunflower seeds, pepitas, pecans)
- ¾ cup unsweetened large flake dried coconut
- 2 T Butter
- ⅓ c olive oil
- ¼ c cup maple
- 1/3 c brown rice syrup
- 1 T honey
- 1/4 cup almond butter (I use Trader Joes salted, unsweetened creamy)
- ¾ tsp morton’s kosher salt
- ¾ tsp garam masala
- ¾ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ ground allspice
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- quarter sheet pan (9×13 rimmed baking sheet)
- small saucepan, preferably non-stick
- small silicone spatula
- large, stiff silicone spatula
- parchment paper
- Preheat oven to 300, convection setting if you’ve got it.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, and add the oats and pepitas and sunflower seeds, and gently mix together with your (clean) hands.
- Combine the maple syrup, olive oil, almond butter, salt, garam masala, black pepper, allspice and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Set aside.
- Pop the oat mixture into the oven, on the middle rack. Toast for 20 minutes, stir, and then add the coconut flakes and pecans, stirring into the mix with a spatula. Toast for another 10 minutes then stir again. Toast for another 8 minutes, while you heat the saucepan of liquids.
- Place the syrup/oil saucepan over medium heat, stirring regularly with a small spatula to incorporate the spices and almond butter into the liquids until you have a smooth “glue.” Do not bring the mixture to a boil, but slow lazy bubbles are okay – you need the syrup just on the edge of simmering. Once the final 8 minutes of oat toasting is done and the coconut is starting to turn a warm toasty tan at the edges, the liquid mixture should be warm and a smooth, thickish mixture with approximately the thickness of cold maple syrup, dripping off a raised spatula in ribbons.
- Remove the oat mixture out of the oven and pour into a large mixing bowl.
- Raise the oven temp to 325, convection setting if you have it.
- Pour half of the syrupy glue over top and mix into the oats using a stiff spatula, ensuring all the oats get a thin skim of the sticky mixture. Then, drizzle the last half of the goo over the oats, and stir together – put some muscle and patience into it to ensure an even, sticky coat.
- Place the parchment paper back onto your rimmed baking sheet, and pour the sticky mixture out onto the baking sheet into a few lumps across the full pan. Use your spatula to spread the mixture into a semi-even packed layer. Take another smaller sheet of parchment and place it over one corner of the pan, and use your hands to press the mixture firmly down with even pressure into one well-packed layer, moving the smaller piece of parchment across the sheet pan as you go, until you’ve managed to press the entire sheet pan down. Peel the small piece of parchment off and discard
- Return the pan to the oven, bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees, and bake for 10-15 more minutes. The finished bars should be deeply golden, and you should see an almost toffee-like lacy candy forming at the edges. Remove the pan from the oven, and set on a cooling rack for 25 minutes, then cut while the bars are still warm.
Note: You do not want to let the bars fully cool before cutting – the olive oil/maple syrup mixture is a little more fragile than bars made with brown sugar/honey/brown rice syrup. If the bars fully cool, the bars will not cut as easily, and are more likely to crumble a bit.