I first got onto this a little over a year ago. My son had made an expedition to Costco to buy a case of Cliff bars, and I thought, “What is really in these things? Can I not do better?”
My next thought went to the granola I was making. I figured that an energy – or granola bar (there really is not a lot of difference) would have the same base of stuff in it – carbs in the form of grains, protein in the form of nuts, sweetener to provide some quick sugar in the form of honey and/or dried fruit.
So…. I wanted it to be nutritious, really tasty, organic if possible, give a good solid kick to a flagging athlete, and just as importantly, to not crumble apart.
On this last item, I had to do a little searching and talking. To begin with, my friend Chuck suggested that I grind the nuts - or at least some of them to a fine paste - like a nut butter.Image
Next, an energy bar rep giving free samples whispered, “the secret ingredient is dates”. This made a lot of sense. They are very sticky, intensely sweet, and give some pretty fast energy. There was one other item I figured out on my own – egg whites. With the various eggs benedict and mayo that gets made around here, there are usually egg whites begging to be used. What a great additional source of both binding and protein!
The final piece of keeping them stuck together was the temperature. I cook granola at 300 - and this is too low for effective caramelization. I felt putting it up near 400 would be too much – the sides would get burned, possibly the top too. So I tried – and settled on 375. If your oven has a convection setting, use that.This provides sufficient heat it seems for it all to get nicely cooked, and not fall apart.
I also wanted a certain logic and simplicity to the recipe. Perhaps that is code for a ratio or proportion.
My granola has equal parts grains and nuts. I decided for these guys to double the nuts, but still overall the proportion of oil, cinnamon and vanilla to dry mix had to be about the same as the granola. This meant adding to the nuts, and reducing the grains.
In the realm of sweetener, I increased the honey – not quite double – about 80% more. In part this was to make it all a tidy ratio-based recipe.
Finally, almost as an afterthought – a “why not add some more protein” kind of afterthought, I threw in some skim milk powder.
Here then, is the complete recipe. The numbers in brackets are the ratios. This will make exactly one 11×17 tray. This and others are on my blog http://homecookexplorer.wordpress.com/2012/10/28/make-great-energy-bars/
1 - 11x17 tray
mixed grains - mainly oats (4)
Mixed nuts (8) coarse cut half, fine grind the rest
dates - in a paste (2)
skim milk powder (1)
In This Recipe
Preheat oven to 375
Coarse chop the nuts in a food processor. Remove half of them. Fine chop the rest until they resemble small crumbs or even a nut butter.
Mix all dry ingredients thoroughly.
(A note about dates in a paste: You can get away here with pitting the dates, chopping them fine and adding them. Since these bars are a regular staple, I use a meat grinder to make a big batch of date paste. This can also be used for date squares.)
Mix the wet ingredients minus the egg whites
Heat oil and honey in a microwave until warm to help them combine better.
Add in any extras – currants, mango, coconut, chocolate. Laying them in rows will give you different varieties of bars. Gently spread the rest of the mix over, using the oiled spoon technique.