Baker Chelsea Williams definitely has a sweet tooth, but she’s also health-conscious, so her snacks have to satisfy both appetites. Her solution: homemade granola bars.
“It’s so satisfying and very sustaining, but it has enough sweetness that it doesn’t leave you with that craving,” says Williams, who owns Chelsea’s Bakehaus in Kansas City, Mo.
Williams’ granola bars are loaded with dried cranberries and blueberries, plus lots of nutritious pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds. She sweetens them with maple syrup and brown sugar.
That’s the perk about making your own granola bars: You can overload them with your favorite ingredients.
“It can also be cheaper,” says Anne Mauney, a registered dietitian and food blogger based in Washington, D.C.
The top recipe on Mauney’s blog, Fannetastic Food, is for no-bake peanut butter granola bars that take just five minutes to make. The vegan bars are made with oats, peanut butter, seeds and brown rice syrup, a sticky sweetener that helps meld the mix.
“People are always looking for portable, quick, healthy snacks,” Mauney says. “I love those granola bars because you can wrap them in foil and throw them in your purse.”
Prepackaged granola bars would be even easier, but many of those contain staggering amounts of sugar and a long list of hard-to-pronounce ingredients, Mauney says. She prefers making bars that are low in sugar and high in fiber, protein and healthy fats.
Plus, homemade granola bars are a great snack for kids, Mauney says. Because they’re relatively easy to make – no knives required! – kids can even help make them.
Our pick for a family-pleasing recipe is the chocolate chip granola bar from the new cookbook, “ Weelicious Lunches,” by Catherine McCord (William Morrow, 2013). The bars taste as good as chocolate chip cookies, but the top ingredient is old-fashioned rolled oats. That makes them healthier and cost-effective: A batch of 30 costs less than $4 to make. And most of the recipe’s ingredients are pantry staples.
Homemade granola bars can be easy to make, but they’re not foolproof. Williams found out the hard way that it’s best to combine wet and dry ingredients just before baking.
“Don’t let it sit overnight,” she says. “By the next day it’s this dry, sawdusty stuff that you cannot salvage.”
Overbaking is almost as disastrous. The edges get hard, bitter and burnt-tasting. If that happens, don’t throw out the whole batch: If the center is still soft, break it into crumbles and pretend you meant to make loose granola.
Experimentation is part of the fun, says Williams, who’s working on recipes for chocolate and espresso-flavored granola bars. There’s only one ingredient she has decided to ban.
“Bacon,” Williams says. “I think it would be really popular, but I don’t want to go there.”
To see printable recipes, click on link below:
Gish: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @sarah_gish.
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