The standard granola bar is, pardon my language, kind of a tricky bastard to create in the homemade healthy kitchen. Why? Well, I suppose it is partly because we are all used to the ubiquitous store-bought granola bar, which is either the supremely sugary chewy kind that sticks to your teeth or the super crunchy kind that if accidentally left in the bottom of a lunch bag or purse, seems to shatter into a million pieces like the dust of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh.
Made without corn syrup, refined sugars, or whatever it is that makes those other granola bars worthy of being karate-chopped, homemade granola bars live in a kind of in-between land. Chewy (but not in that taffy-pull candy kind of way) and crunchy (but not in a creepy Pharaoh dust kind of way), they are their own creature. These bars are a dense, toothsome, nutty, sweet but not overly so, delicious, normal-tasting experience. And I mean normal-tasting here really as the highest compliment. These bars taste like oats, and almond butter, and coconut oil, and raisins, and applesauce, and dark chocolate chips. And they taste like these things because that’s what they are made of. And I like that.
Now, I should explain about the twice-baked part. You’ll recall that my aim was to create a bar that was chewy, in that good “I’ve got fibre” kind of way, but also a bit crunchy. In this recipe, chewy happens as the inevitable result of mixing oats with applesauce. The twice-baked part was a bit of biscotti inspiration. I mean, if you make a biscotti extra crunchy by baking it twice, why wouldn’t it work for a homemade fruit and oat bar? And it does work for the most part, which makes me, I think, something of a diabolical kitchen genius.
These bars are also customizable, as most of my recipes are. Use dates or dried cherries instead of raisins; omit the chocolate chips; use all almond butter; use all coconut oil; use all applesauce (though this will make them veer evenly more sharply to the soft and chewy side of things no matter how many times you bake them); use pureed pumpkin instead of applesauce; add shredded coconut; throw in pumpkin seeds; and so on.
Let your inner granola bar artiste run wild! Make these a canvas that expresses everything you’ve always wanted to say about homemade granola bars. Paint a canvas of fruit and nut and oat and chocolate beauty that the world won’t soon forget.
And then bake ’em twice and eat ’em.
Easy Twice-Baked Oat & Raisin Granola Bars with Dark Chocolate
- Author: Whole Living magazine (Jan/Feb 2013), with tweaks by Emily Joldersma, R.H.N.
- Recipe notes: vegan, naturally-sweetened, gluten-free (if using certified oats), oil-free (if using all almond butter)
- Yield: 9 generous granola bars or 12 smaller bars
- 3 cups (gluten-free) rolled oats
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup dark vegan chocolate chips
- 2 tsps ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup smooth natural almond butter (at room temperature) OR 1/4 cup almond butter plus 1/4 very soft (or melted) coconut oil
- 4 tbsps ground flaxmeal or ground chia seeds
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 3 tbsps almond milk (or 3 tbsps orange juice)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Lightly grease a 9×13 pan with coconut oil (note: if you wanted thinner bars, put them in a larger pan).
- Whisk together dry ingredients plus raisins and chocolate chips.
- Thoroughly mix together almond butter, coconut oil, applesauce, chia seeds, almond milk, maple syrup, and vanilla.
- Mix wet and dry ingredients well, until all oats are coated with almond/syrup mixture.
- Scoop mix into prepared pan and bake for 30 mins at 350F.
- Remove from oven, let cool slightly, and cut into 9-12 bars.
- Place bars on a baking sheet and bake for another 10-15 minutes at 350F again, until nicely browned all around edges.
- Cool and enjoy! These bars freeze beautifully.
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