I went through a phase in high school where I was determined to find the best homemade granola bar recipe. I tried recipe after recipe after recipe and none stood up to the test. So I gave up and returned to store bought variety. About a year ago though my favorite, Cran Lemon Zest Earnest Bars, disappeared from the shelves of my local Whole Foods and sent me on a granola bar quest again. This recipe, adapted from the Smitten Kitchen, is my version of those Earnest Bars. It is very very flexible though, so no need to stick with the lemon and cranberry theme if you don't want to!
The flax seed and wheat germ can be completely omitted if desired. Instead of cranberries, walnuts, and almonds you can use any combination of dried fruit and nuts as long as it equates to 2 to 3 total cups worth. (Other possibilities include, but are certainly not limited to, dried apricots, cherries, or blueberries, pecans, cashews, sunflower seeds, coconut, sesame seeds, or chocolate chips.) The lemon zest and lemon extract can also be omitted. You can substitute vanilla extract is desired or just leave out the “extract” component entirely. Finally, you can use all olive oil (or a different type of oil like sunflower or canola) or all butter for the fat. —Herstory of Food
1 2/3 cups
whole grain oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, finely ground in a food processor or blender)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8? x 8? x 2? pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Coat the parchment paper and exposed sides with a non-stick spray or lightly grease.
Stir together all the dry ingredients, expect the lemon rind. (The dried fruit and nuts can be chopped, or not, to taste. Obviously, the less they’re chopped the chunkier the bar.)
In a separate bowl, whisk together the lemon rind, lemon extract, olive oil, melted butter, peanut butter, honey and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry using a fork until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan.
Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges. Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack or, after about 20 minutes, lift and remove the bars from the pan using the parchment paper. Place on a rack in their paper to cool the rest of the way. (The latter method can speed up the cooling process.)
Once cool, use a serrated knife to cut the bars into squares. If the bars seem crumbly, chill the pan of them for 30 minutes. Then cut them cold. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container. In humid weather, it is best to refrigerate the bars.