I’m in Ann Arbor for the week to do research and go to a wedding. This means I’m writing this in my tiny hotel room, while sipping miso soup from the surprisingly good hole-in-the-wall Korean place next to the hotel. This is my second night in a row eating Korean take-out. It also means that for lunch every day I’ve been relying on a few staples that don’t need to be refrigerated. You know, pre-cut broccoli and snap peas I picked up at a grocery store my first night here. For breakfast, I’ve been eating granola bars, and those are what I actually want to tell you about.
When I used to travel for campaigns, I would load up on Lara Bars before every trip so I wouldn’t have to rely on bad hotel breakfasts or over priced yogurt parfaits. Earlier this year, I decided to replace my Lara Bars with homemade granola bars and started tinkering with this smitten kitchen recipe.
My first attempts were fine, but kind of crumbly and nothing worth writing about. This time, I tinkered a bit and came up with something that I think is both delicious and a little different. These granola bars, hold together–admittedly the first requirement for anything with the name “bar.” They aren’t too crunchy or too sweet. Most importantly to me, however, they have a sour kick.
It’s not clear from this blog yet, but I’m pretty much always trying to make everything more lip-puckering. I am constantly adding a squeeze of lemon, a splash of vinegar, or a slice of lime. I can drink a carton of grapefruit juice in two days, although I generally regret it afterwards.
That said, I would never have added lime to these granola bars if I had not been afraid that they were too salty. I was finishing them up and got worried that the combination of salted butter, salted sunflower seeds, and a quarter teaspoon of salt was just too much. So I grabbed the half a lime in my refrigerator, squeezed it all over the top, and crossed my fingers that the acid wouldn’t produce some kind of kitchen alchemy that caused my granola bars to crumble. It didn’t.
So, may I suggest that the next time you are travelling, or really if you just want to bake a snack, you try these tangy granola bars:
Sour Cherry, Apricot, and Sunflower Seed Granola Bars (with lime):
* Note: I don’t know why, but until about a month ago I thought that parchment paper was a luxury for people with yachts. I was so convinced of this that for years I substituted wax paper for parchment paper when it was called for in recipes. I then spent unbelievable amounts of time peeling melted wax paper off the back of granola bars, brittle, and other such things. This was stupid. Buy parchment paper. Use it sparingly, but, when it’s called for, it really make things much easier.
– 1/2 cup + 1/3 cup rolled oats
– 1/4 cup sugar
– 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons oat flour
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil
– 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
– 1 tablespoon agave syrup
– 1 tablespoon maple syrup
– 1 tablespoon corn syrup
– 1 tablespoon water
– 3 tablespoons almond butter
– 1/2 a lime
– 1 1/2 cups of dried apricots, dried sour cherries, ground flax-seed meal, and sunflower seeds. (You can fiddle with these proportions, but I did 1/2 a cup chopped dried apricots, 1/2 a cup chopped dried cherries, and 1/2 a cup sunflower seeds. I put them all in a measuring cup and then dumped in the flax-seed meal until it filled in all the cracks in the mixture.)
*** A note on all the syrups: You could probably use all agave or all maple syrup. I liked the combination of the two. It left the bars sweet but not very maple-y. Do use the corn syrup. I tried to do without it my first time, and the bars were a lot more crumbly. Plus, as my mother likes to point out, corn syrup is really just another form of sugar.
* Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper so that it fits squarely into the bottom of the pan but runs up two sides so that you can use it to lift the bars out. Grease the parchment paper lightly.
* Chop the apricots and cherries pretty finely. Again, I learned from experience that, if you don’t do this, when you go to cut the bars, bigger chunks will get in the way of a clean cut. Put them in a measuring cup with the sunflower seeds. Pour in flax-seed meal and hit the bottom of the cup on the counter a couple of times so that the flax-seed meal shakes down into the cracks between the dried fruit. Set aside.
* Mix together other dry ingredients.
* Add fruit and seed mixture to dry ingredients and mix together well.
* Melt butter and coconut oil together. Stir syrups, almond butter, and water into the melted fats. Whisk until all the liquids combine into a smooth mixture.
* Stir liquids into dry ingredients until they are evenly coated.
* Press mixture into pan making sure to really push it into the corners.
* Squeeze lime over top of pan and press mixture down evenly in pan again.
* Bake for 35 or so minutes until edges are brown.
* Let cool for about 20 minutes. Then use parchment paper to remove from pan and place on drying rack in the refrigerator over night. In the morning cut into squares using a very sharp knife.
These keep best in the refrigerator, but if you are staying in a hotel room without one they will be fine. I would recommend making sure there is a layer of wax paper (save your precious parchment paper!) or tin foil between each if you are going to bring layers of them on your travels.