The first time I ever ate a granola bar (the commercial kind), I was so put off with its taste and texture that I never touched nor ate a single granola bar since then. There were just a few things about it I didn't like--the weird chewy texture of it that hurt my jaw, the overt sweetness that made my throat sore, and the combination of flavors and ingredients that just didn't appeal to me. It basically had this promising look of so much healthy goodness but in reality, it's just a glorified candy bar loaded with so much unhealthy sugars that eating a Snickers bar actually sounds a lot better. Having that unpleasant taste experience ingrained in my mind, I obviously never felt inclined to make my own granola bars. But as I was reading the pages of The Green Market Baking Book to look for recipes I could make with the bags of mixed dried fruits I have sitting for the longest time in my pantry, I couldn't help but eye the recipe for granola bars because of all the healthy ingredients that are in it (flax meal, almonds, etc) as well as the replacement of all the unhealthy fats and refined sugars with better ones (which is what the book is all about) like brown rice syrup for the brown/white sugar and extra virgin olive oil for the butter. I got so curious with this recipe that I definitely had to make it and it certainly helped that I had all of the ingredients already in my kitchen. Well, except for the brown rice syrup which I had to buy at a Korean grocery store that's just walking distance from my house.
I must say that these granola bars were Ah-mazing! This is it. This will be the basis of all the granola bars I'll be making/experimenting in the future. I'm looking into making a seeded version filled with sesame, flax, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. I thought that the extra virgin olive oil would have a more pronounced taste to the bars but it becomes unnoticeable after the bake which is good in a way. I also love the sweetness level of the brown rice syrup and it's actually a very familiar taste to me too. It's very similar in taste to one of my favorite snacks called Sesame Snaps and I think this is also used as sweetener for some of our local delicacies. The next time I make these bars, I'll lessen the dried fruits and increase the quantity of nuts and seeds instead. I can't help it, I'm a nutty and seedy person LOL.
Granola Bars with Brown Rice Syrup
(Adapted from The Green Market Baking Book: 100 Delicious Recipes for Naturally Sweet & Savory Treats by Laura C. Martin)
1/4 cup ground flax
1/4 cup water
2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1/4 cup whole grain spelt flour or oat flour
1 3/4 cups mixed dried fruits (your choice)
1/2 cup sliced or chopped almonds
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup brown rice syrup
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the ground flax and water to form a paste. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix together the dry ingredients.
- In the third bowl, mix together the olive oil and brown rice syrup. Add the flax paste.
- Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and incorporate well.
- Pour the batter in a parchment lined 9" x 12" pan or any pan size close to this, pressing the mixture down firmly. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown.
- Let cool in pan then slice into bars.