I’ve tried on several occasions to create my own recipe for a soft and chewy granola bar. It seemed like a pretty simple goal. I had no idea just how difficult it would prove to be. The first several versions were anything but soft and chewy. They were dry and had the consistency of a kitchen countertop. In fact, to borrow a food related line from The Odd Couple, one of my all time favorite movies, Oscar Madison would loudly proclaim that they were “gahbage”.
Luckily, I like a challenge. I kept on tinkering and slowly but surely ended up with exactly what I was looking for. The resulting bars are firm enough to hold their shape but light enough to not require an emergency trip to the dentist. It took more than six revisions of the original recipe, but these bars are indeed soft and chewy and incredibly delicious. My whole family has given them the 1840 Farm Seal of Approval.
They also accomplish the impossible. They taste delicious but contain absolutely no refined sugar. Please, don’t hit your back button right away. I don’t want to scare you away from this recipe. Why no refined sugar? There are a couple of reasons.
First and foremost on my list is that my daughter spends each day trying desperately to match insulin to the carbohydrates that she eats. It’s no easy task, but it is the reality of someone living with Type 1 Diabetes. We’ve found that if we eat carbohydrates of a higher quality we have much better luck at meeting her insulin needs. I am willing to bet that honey must outrank highly processed white sugar with regard to that goal.
Secondly, my son has food allergies. Once we narrowed down our granola bar choices to exclude any that either contained peanuts or tree nuts or “might contain” them, we weren’t left with many to choose from. In fact, there were only two. Suddenly, our granola bar project seemed to be gaining traction. Unless we wanted to be relegated to eating the same bar forever, we were going to need to make our own.
While the rest of the family doesn’t have to count every single carbohydrate or pair insulin to our meals, we try very hard to make good food choices. We read ingredient statements before deciding if we want to purchase products at the grocery store. Frankly, the granola bars that were claiming to be so “healthy” didn’t have healthy ingredient statements. Instead of health, they were full of additives, sugar in multiple forms, and ingredients that sounded like they belonged in a Bill Nye science experiment instead of in our lunch boxes. Put simply, we wanted more than the standard grocery store granola bar had to offer.
Truthfully, I also decided to remove the refined sugar after reading an article in the New York Times Magazine. Is Sugar Toxic? by Gary Taubes is a must read if you consider yourself to be well read on the subject of the food you eat. I am not a food scientist or a medical doctor, so I can’t weigh in on how accurate his assertions are. I can say that after reading his article, I will never look at refined sugar the same way again. I made a quick mental note to finish the book I’m reading, Honeybee, quickly. Maybe we should be adding honeybees to the farm this year.
I felt compelled to revise this recipe one last time. It was time to bid the refined sugar goodbye and see if my family would be able to taste the difference if I substituted honey and brown rice syrup where the brown sugar had been. I’m happy to say that no one was the wiser. We all felt that the taste and texture of these bars was even better after I made the switch. The syrup and honey helped to keep the bars moist and their shelf life seemed to improve greatly. I have had a bar purposely sitting in a covered container on my kitchen counter for over five days and they still taste as though they had just come out of the oven.
I don’t know if substituting honey for refined sugar will yield any health benefits for my family, but I do know that I feel better knowing exactly what is in our granola bars. It’s nice to not need a MSDS sheet to evaluate the ingredients in our afternoon snack. Now I’ll be looking through my recipe collection to see where else I can make my honey for sugar substitution.
These granola bars have become a staple in our farmhouse kitchen. I hope that they will become a staple in yours. They’re so delicious that I might feel inclined to leave a Felix Unger like note for my family on our kitchen chalkboard. “We are all out of superprocessed granola bars. -FU”
Afterwards, I think I’ll settle in with a granola bar and a fresh cup of coffee and watch The Odd Couple. I can’t help it. All these references to the movie make me realize that it has been far too long since I’ve sat down to watch it. I can live without refined sugar, but I can’t resist a witty comedy that references brown and green sandwiches and incinerated meatloaf in the span of 105 minutes.
1840 Farm Soft and Chewy Granola Bars
makes 18 bars
These bars contain white chocolate chips and dried cranberries to suit my family’s tastes. They would be equally delicious with dark chocolate chips or other additions.
90 grams old-fashioned oats
15 grams puffed wheat cereal
60 grams white chocolate chips
40 grams dried cranberries (craisins)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
90 grams King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
2 ounces sunflower (or other neutral tasting) oil
105 grams (5 Tablespoons) honey
60 grams brown rice syrup
15 grams puffed wheat cereal
30 grams old-fashioned oats
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9×9 pan with parchment paper and set aside.
Place 90 grams of oats with 15 grams of puffed wheat cereal in the bowl of a food processor along with chocolate chips and craisins. Pulse a few times to break up the ingredients. Resist the urge to over process as this will change the consistency of the final granola bar. Add baking soda, sea salt, vanilla, flour, oil, honey, and brown rice syrup. Pulse just until combined. The mixture will form a soft dough that resembles a cookie dough in texture.
Place the dough in a bowl and fold in the remaining 15 grams of puffed wheat and 30 grams of oats until they are evenly mixed. Lightly press this mixture into the prepared 9×9 pan. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the bars are lightly browned on top. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Cut into bars and serve.