Making granola bars is easier than making cookies. There's no butter and sugar to cream, so there's no need for a mixer or bringing butter and eggs to room temperature.
Home-made granola bars have no additives, no preservatives, no artificial flavors or colors and no unpronounceable ingredients -- just whole grain oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit.
They're a guilty pleasure without a lot of guilt because you control the sugar. They're also easy to grab when you're on the go, because they hold their shape.
Steel-cut oatmeal in the cinnamon and berry granola bars creates a sturdy bar that crumbles in the mouth into smaller pieces that deliver a satisfying chew. The sugar takes a back seat to the toasted flavor of the oatmeal.
The apricot, pistachio and almond flapjacks are also light on the sugar and hard in texture. The bars are dry-tasting with bits of hard apricots that provide a nice tart finish to the mellow flavor of old-fashioned oatmeal.
The granola bars from "America's Text Kitchen" are made with old-fashioned oatmeal, some of which is ground into a flour. These bars are sweet -- almost dessertlike -- and melt in your mouth. Replace olive oil with butter for a distinctive taste that's hard to beat.
The granola rounds are the sweetest of the bunch. Quick-cook oatmeal gives them a soft and chewy texture, and the added egg ensures they hold their shape and don't crumble.
All three recipes can be customized to suit your taste: Use different types of oats, vary the amount of nuts and seeds and dried fruit, add cinnamon. Change up the sugar and the shortening; corn syrup will produce a sturdier bar and butter adds an unmistakable flavor. You can even try a combination of corn syrup and marshmallows. Use dried dates for added sweetness.
Don't skimp on the nuts and seeds, though. They give the granola bars an added layer of flavor.
For all but the granola rounds, heat all the wet ingredients before mixing into the dry ingredients to give the bars a running start in coming together.
Two of the recipes don't require coconut. Do yourself a favor and add it. Shredded coconut gives granola an unmistakable texture and taste.
Bee staff writer Sharon K. Ghag can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2340.
Makes 16 bars
1/3 cup maple syrup
¼ cup brown sugar
¾ teaspoon flake sea salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup raw pepitas
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup unsweetened flaked coconut
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Line a 13-by-9-inch pan with foil so it hangs over the sides. Spray with cooking spray. Whisk maple syrup, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in the oil. Process ½ cup oats in food processor until finely ground. Transfer to the bowl with the maple syrup and stir in remaining ingredients and mix until thoroughly coated.
Spread mixture into prepared pan in a thin even layer. Compress with a spatula. Bake 45 minutes, or until deeply golden. Let cool for at least an hour before cutting.
This recipe is from "America's Test Kitchen D.I.Y. Cookbook" ($26.95).
1½ cups quick-cooking rolled oats
½ cup each almond flour, ground flaxseed, walnuts
¼ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup each dried blueberries and dried cranberries
1/3 cup unsweetened dried coconut
½ teaspoon each ground cinnamon and salt
¼ teaspoon ground allspice