Nothing like the lame-ass packaged granola bars of yesteryear.Jump to Recipe
As turns out, it’s not that easy to make a great granola bar but it sure is simple to make a lame-ass one. I really like a sturdy, substantial granola bar. One that has a little bit of crunch, but still won’t break off my teeth if I bite instead of breaking it. I love some complex nutty flavors too. I’m not averse to any sweeteners, or fats in whatever combination – so long as the brown sugar, maple, honey, coconut oil, butter or nut butter is high quality I’m happy with it being in my snacks. The truth is that wherever I find myself eating them, these ingredients are probably the best possible options (over some non-food-filled packaged product with a virtuous claim on the wrapper.)
These Brown Butter Oat + Date Bars keep well – in a pocket and in a pantry – and I think, at last, I’ve found my forever favorite granola bar.
A little bit about the recipe here before you dive in; I liberally adapted the recipe below from Ottolenghi’s book, and you could liberally adapt it again to suit your purposes.
Flavors are FUN, yes, but they also are the mechanisms by which our bodies nourish themselves. Flavors basically tell our bodies what the food is giving us – on a nutritional and energetic level. Our bodies then prepare enzymes to break those components down, assimilate them, and turn them into fuel for our vibrant lives. We can’t eat just one flavor and get all of the things we need, so learning to track the flavors in our foods helps us to be sure that we’re really getting all of the things we need in our meals. This particular recipe has four of six flavors. The more flavors we can enjoy in any meal or food, the happier and more balanced our bodies will be. If you’re wanting to learn more about how the flavors we eat fuel our bodies – energetically and nutritively, check out this little blog post.
Nothing like the lame-ass packaged granola bars of yesteryear.
In a small saucepan, add the butter and melt over low/medium heat until the butter browns. The butter will melt, then bubble and simmer. Then, the milk solids will float to the top and the butter will get really feisty.
The melted butter will settle with an airy film over the top with little golden flecks visible in the bottom. Pull the butter from the heat immediately and transfer to a bowl to cool slightly. You don’t want to burn the butter, just cook it till its golden. Set the butter aside.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line an 8×8″ square pan with parchment paper. Set the pan aside.
Spread the almonds and cashews on a baking sheet and toast until just barely golden brown and fragrant. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before chopping roughly into 2/3″ pieces and placing the pieces in a large mixing bowl.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse 3/4 cup (80g) of the oats into small pieces. Be careful not to turn the oats into powder, though! These processed oats will help hold the bars together. Combine them with the nuts and the remaining unprocessed oats in the large mixing bowl.
Add all of the seeds to a small frying pan and toast gently over medium heat on the stove until just barely brown and very fragrant. Add these toasted seeds to the nut and oat mix, along with the chopped dates. Mix to combine and then set aside.
Now, return to the browned butter, still in liquid state. If your brown butter has cooled and is now solid, rewarm it over low heat until liquid again. Add the sugar, corn syrup and orange zest. Remove from the heat and add the orange blossom water, cinnamon and salt and stir to combine. Then, pour over the oat mixture. Mix well, then tip the mixture out into the prepared pan.
Use a small spatula or the back of a spoon to smooth the granola bars evenly into the pan, making sure to fill the corners.
Bake the bars for about 35 minutes, or until they’re bubbling and have a nice dark golden color.
Remove them from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 30 minutes or so before cutting into squares or rectangles. (If you remove them from the pan, they’ll fall apart!) No matter what shape you choose, you want to cut them before they harden and cool completely.