Fruit and Nut Bars

I’ve said it once before, but I’ll say it again, homemade granola bars outshine every store bought version.  This quick and easy recipe for Fruit and Nut Bars is so simple that at one point in the recipe, you use your hands to combine the ingredients (no fancy mixer needed).  The most “advanced” step involves using a fork to stir the egg and vanilla together.  You can totally do this.

My version of these bars included pecans, cashews, almonds, dates, dried apricots, dried cranberries, and dried blueberries.  Some brown sugar, a little  bit of cinnamon and vanilla, an egg, and just enough flour to hold it all together round out the ingredients.  The result is bars that are dense and chewy, sweet and nutty, and slightly tart.

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A close up of all that deliciousness.

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Fruit and Nut Bars

Makes 16 2-inch bars or 25 smaller bars (8×8 inch pan)
(from Alice Medrich’s Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies)
My notes are in [  ] below.

Ingredients

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1.625 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt [less if the nuts you use are salted]
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon [optional; this was not in the original recipe but I like a hint of cinnamon in my baked goods.]
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2.625 ounces) packed light or dark brown sugar
2 cups (7 ounces) of nuts [can be whole or pieces; I prefer a mix of almonds, cashews, pistachios, and pecans.  The original recipe specified walnuts only.]
1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) dates, pitted and cut into quarters [I like a mix of dried fruit so I used 5 ounces of dates, 2 ounces of dried cranberries, and 2 ounces of dried blueberries.  Dried cherries are also a nice flavor addition.]
1 cup (5 ounces) lightly packed dried apricot halves, each cut in half [I used a little less than this because I didn’t want my bars too tart.]
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F.  Position a rack in the center of the oven.
  2. Line an 8-inch square pan (the bottom and all 4 sides) with heavy duty foil and spray with baking spray or line the pan with parchment paper.  The bars are pretty sticky, so I prefer using parchment paper.
  3. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon (if using) in a very large bowl, and mix together thoroughly with a whisk or fork.
  4. Add  the brown sugar, nuts, dates, and dried fruit (including the dried apricots).  Use your fingers to mix the ingredients until the nuts and fruits are coated with the flour mixture, and separate any sticky fruit pieces.
  5. Vigorously whisk the egg with the vanilla in a small bowl until light colored and thickened.
  6. Scrape the egg mixture into the large bowl, and mix with your hands until all of the fruit and nut pieces are thinly coated with batter.
  7. Spread the mixture into the pan, pressing down to compress the batter and even it out.
  8. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the thin batter coating is dark golden brown and has pulled away from the sides of the pan.
  9. Cool in the pan on a rack.
  10. Drizzle the top with honey, if you like your bars a little sweeter.
  11. Life the ends of the foil/parchment, and transfer the bars to a cutting board.  Use a sharp knife to cut 16 or 25 squares.

Note:  The bars can be kept in an airtight container for at least 2 weeks at room temperature, or longer in the refrigerator.

Granola Bars – Oats, Rice Krispies, Smoked Almonds, Almond Butter, & Dried Cherries

If you’ve been only eating store bought, packaged granola bars, then you’ve been doing it all wrong.  These homemade granola bars are packed with oats, rice krispies, smoked almonds, almond butter, dried cherries, and honey, and they’re quick and easy to make.  Just measure, melt, stir, bake, and eat- no fancy equipment needed.  You can customize the type of nuts used (I also like using salted hazelnuts and cashews), dried fruit (dried apricots and cranberries are also among my favorites), and nut butter (I use almond butter because I can’t do peanut butter).  The bars are barely sweet, but you can sweeten them up with a more generous drizzle of honey after they’ve baked or even a swirl of melted chocolate, Nutella, or whatever makes your sweet tooth sing.
Granola Bars -Oats, Rice Krispies, Smoked Almonds, Almond Butter, & Dried Cherries 6

Granola Bars – Oats, Rice Krispies, Smoked Almonds, Almond Butter, & Dried Cherries

Makes one 9″x13″ pan

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 3/4 cup rice krispies cereal
1/2 cup roasted salted almonds, chopped (I like using Trader Joe’s Mesquite Smoked Almonds)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup dried cherries (or other dried fruit), chopped
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons almond butter, divided
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon dark brown sugar
Honey (optional), for drizzling on top

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Line a 9×13 inch baking dish with parchment paper.
  3. Combine the oats, rice krispies, chopped almonds, salt, baking soda, and chopped cherries in a large mixing bowl.
  4. In a large glass measuring cup (or microwave safe bowl), combine the honey, 1/2 cup almond butter, and coconut oil. Microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute, and stir to mix well and ensure the coconut oil and almond butter have melted.
  5. Add the vanilla and brown sugar to the coconut, honey, and almond butter mixture. Whisk to combine.
  6. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir to mix well.
  7. Pour the oat mixture into the prepared pan.  Flatten the mixture into the bottom of the pan.  I start out by pressing down on the oat mixture with my hands to distribute it evenly throughout the pan.  Then I place a sheet of parchment paper over the top of the oat mixture and use the  bottom of a large measuring cup (or any other object with a solid flat surface) to press down on the mixture and pack it down.
  8. Microwave the remaining 2 tablespoons of almond butter for about 30 seconds (until it liquefies enough to be poured/drizzled). Drizzle the almond butter over the top of the bars.
  9. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown on top.
  10. Remove from the oven, and cool in the pan for 10-20 minutes, until if feels firm but still somewhat soft enough to cut.  Note: if the bars haven’t cooled enough, they won’t be firm enough to cut into bars and will crumble.  But if you wait too long and they’ve cooled and hardened too much, they may shatter a little when cut into bars.  It’s a bit of a guessing game, so a little trial and error is needed.
  11. Remove from the pan and then cut into bars.  Don’t worry if some of your bars break apart a little or seem a bit too crumbly when you cut them.  Press/mold the bars back into shape, and when they’re fully cool, they should harden a little more and hold together a little better.  And if you have smaller pieces that are too crumbly to hold up as bars, they’ll still be delicious to eat sprinkled over yogurt.
  12. Place the bars on a cooling rack to cool completely.
  13. Store in a sealed container or wrapped in plastic wrap.