If you haven't noticed, I steer clear of even remotely healthy recipes. I have a feeling I could've adapted this recipe to be healthy, alas I did not. There are many different choices you can make, i.e. which dried fruits/nuts to use, which oils, etc., but I picked my poison and as always, it was chocolate. After Deb of Smitten Kitchen raved about this recipe on her site I felt that I just had to give them a shot, but I wanted to try to model it as closely as possible to chewy bars. I'm a chewy bar fanatic, I always have a box around and have successfully convinced myself that they are extremely good for me (don't try to tell me otherwise!). These bars didn't turn out like my beloved chewys at all, but they were pretty darn good. It's spring break right now so I am baking at my house and my mom even said these were one of her new favorite recipes. I think the additions of honey, corn syrup, peanut butter, and butter destroy my hopes of it being healthy but hey, a girl can dream. I chose to use semi-sweet chocolate chips and raisins in mine, but I'm going to copy over what Deb wrote so you all can see how flexible this recipe really is. Enjoy!
"Of note: The original recipe calls for something called “sticky bun sugar” which can be made at home with sugar, butter and corn syrup. It is for this reason that corn syrup is listed within one ingredient but also separately, and I used all butter rather than two different fats. Whether the corn syrup can be entirely replaced with honey or maple syrup or the butter can be entirely replaced with a healthier oil is worth auditioning, I just didn’t. Yet. I can tell you this: as is, this is the best granola bar I’ve ever eaten."
Thick, Chewy, Granola Bars
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen
1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats (if gluten-free, be sure to use gluten-free oats)
1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar (use more for a sweetness akin to most purchased bars; use less for a mildly sweet bar)
1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts (total of 10 to 15 ounces)*
1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter (I used almond butter) (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional, namely because I was not convinced that the flavor came through)
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup honey, maple syrup or corn syrup
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (see Note above)
1 tablespoon water
(I used 1 1/2 cups raisins and 1 cup chocolate chips, and yes, of course I added the peanut butter.)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray.
Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter or oil, liquid sweeteners and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry (and peanut butter, if you’re using it) 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. (A piece of plastic wrap can help with this, as you press down on the back of it.)
Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges — don’t be afraid to get a little color on the tops too. They’ll still seem soft and almost underbaked when you press into the center of the pan but do not worry, they’ll set completely once completely cool.
Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. (Alternately, after about 20 minutes you can use your parchment “sling” to lift and remove the bars, and place them in their paper on the rack to cool the rest of the way. This can speed the process up.)
Once cool, a serrated knife (or bench knife) to cut the bars into squares. [Updating to note, as many had crumbling issues:] If bars seem crumbly, chill the pan of them further in the fridge for 30 minutes which will fully set the “glue”, then cut them cold. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container. In humid weather, it’s best to store bars in the refrigerator. They also freeze well.