Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Finally! Crunchy Granola Bars!

This was supposed to be a week that I do a Tuesday's with Dorie post, but I just couldn't make it happen this time.  We've been on vacation and to be honest, the recipe for the group didn't excite me enough to make it happen way in advance so I could post about it on time.  I am interested to see what other bakers thought of the recipe - maybe they'll encourage me to give it a shot!  Who knows?

Instead, I bring you crunchy granola bars.  I have been searching for a crunchy granola bar recipe for approximately forever.  I have tried recipe after recipe, and ended up with either chewy bars or very crumbly bars, not the crunchy bar that I wanted.  Enter, Nigella's Breakfast Bars.  I will admit, I was VERY skeptical about the recipe.  Would it REALLY make crunchy bars?  The reviews all seemed to agree that it would.  However one of the ingredients really threw me - sweetened condensed milk!  When I think of sweetened condensed milk, I think of super sweet, cloyingly sweet, instantaneous cavity-producing sweet.  I was extremely skeptical that the granola bars would actually taste good and not make my teeth hurt, but I decided to give it a try anyway.  And boy am I glad I did! 

I am not sure how it works, but the sweetened condensed milk does NOT make these granola bars horribly sweet.  In fact they are just the right amount of sweet, actually.  It is magical!  And the bars are very easy to make and completely adaptable to your own personal tastes.  I will give you Nigella's recipe and the ingredients that I chose, to give you a jumping off point!

Crunchy Granola Bars
adapted from Nigella Lawson
makes approx. 16 bars

1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 1/2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup dried cranberries (I used cherries)
1 cup mixed seeds (My pantry was low, I only used sunflower)
1 cup natural unsalted peanuts (I used blanched slivered almonds)

Optional supply:  disposable rubber gloves

Preheat the oven to 250F.  Spray a 9x13inch baking dish with cooking spray, or, better yet, line the pan with parchment.

Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a microwavable dish and warm it a bit.  It doesn't need to be very hot, just warmed up a bit.  You could also do this on the stove.

Mix the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl.  Fold in the warmed sweetened condensed milk with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.

Spread the mixture into the prepared pan.  Put on your disposable rubber gloves and press down on the mixture, pushing it out into the corners and making the surface even.  You can also do this with your spatula or wooden spoon.  I would not suggest using your bare hands.  Even if they are dampened, the condensed milk makes this one sticky mixture and you may end up with more on your hands than in the pan!

Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour.  I used a metal 9x13 pan and should have baked for a little less time, so start checking the time at 45 minutes.  You want the bars to be nice and golden on top.  Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan on a rack.  After 15 minutes, cut into bars, then allow to cool completely.  If you used parchment, you can easily lift the bars out of the pan and onto the rack with the excess parchment on the edges.  Easy cleanup and no sticking! Store in an airtight container.

Just don't think about the sweetened condensed milk.  These granola bars are so easy, and so versatile, I foresee having some version of them in my house in regular rotation.  What a great breakfast or mid-day snack!  What a find.  My search is over!

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