everything granola bars

We never manage to have snacks in the house beyond the occasional orange, but now that it’s spring and we’re out and about more, walking, going for runs, going to the beach, etc., having a ‘grab and go’ snack is necessary.  So… homemade granola bars it is!

I’m calling these “everything” granola bars because in order to make them, I opened my cabinets and took out almost everything in them.  Granola bars are one of those foods that is endlessly variable to your taste and the state of your cupboards.  I modeled my recipe after the Smitten Kitchen version, which is based on the King Arthur Flour recipe, but of course after I made my requisite 500 changes, my recipe is quite different from hers.

I want to be clear up front – you don’t have to ‘follow’ this recipe to make these.  Use what you like, what you have, what’s available where you live.  You can mess with the proportions even.  All that really matters is that your dry / wet proportions are such that the mixture is thick but not dry.  (By the way… many commenters on the Smitten Kitchen recipe complain that their bars crumbled.  I didn’t have that problem; I’d love to think it’s the Chian mastic that makes the difference, but the truth is I have no idea.)

So here’s how I did it.

Start with a big bowl o’ oatmeal.  I used quick oats because that’s all they sell in Greece.  Deb of Smitten Kitchen says that if you use regular oats, you should put them through a food processor first to break them up a bit.  For readers in Greece:  quick oats are the standard type in Greece (Quaker, Fytro), though they don’t say so on the package.

Scoop out about a cup of them and run them through a grain mill or a good food processor to get fine oat flour.  You can also use prepared oat flour if you have it, of course.  I used my hand-powered grain mill for this and the result was beautiful silky white oat flour and a tired bicep.

In a food processor, combine the raisins, dried blueberries, and almonds and process for several minutes.

Get out a huge bowl.  Put your oats and your oat flour in the bowl.  Add in the sugar, salt, and artificial sweetener.  (I use artificial sweetener, saccharin specifically, to keep these from getting out of control calorie-wise.  You can leave it out completely (especially if you don’t like sweet granola bars), use a different sweetener, use more sugar, whatever you like.  I don’t like aspartame, but I don’t have a beef with saccharin; if you do, just adjust the sugar to your taste.)

Add in the remaining dry ingredients:  the dried fruit from the food processor, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, shredded coconut, and cinnamon. Chop and add the figs. Grind and add the mastic.

I used my “Rescued Sesame Seeds” in this recipe. I collect sesame seeds that fall off of things and keep them in a jar. 99% of them come from sesame seed breadsticks. When the bag is empty, there are usually at least 2 tbsp of sesame seeds in the bottom. I love to use them in cooking – so much better than throwing them away!

I add Chian mastic to this as well. This may not be readily available where you live, so don’t worry if that’s the case; if you have it, try it. It adds a wonderful flavor and aroma and it gives the bars a bit more chewiness. Just put a few pearls in a mortar and grind them up.

Mix it all up well.

Melt the butter.  I melted mine in a bain marie (in a bowl over boiling water) but you can use a microwave if you have one.  Add the honey, glucose syrup / corn syrup, tahini, and molasses to the butter, and mix.

Pour it all over the dry ingredients and stir together.

Add the sesame oil and continue stirring until it is all combined and there are no ‘dry’ patches.  If it is too dry, add a little more sesame oil.

Put it in your pan and press it down really well so that the top is very flat and it reaches into the corners.  Bake for about half an hour.

Let it cool in the pan on a rack for several hours, and then slice into pieces.  I got 32 pieces out of this recipe (cut into quarters, then quarters again, and then halves), each piece with about 116 calories.  You can also make the pieces twice as large, 232 calories each, of course.

S and I agreed that these taste much better than the storebought kind, and they really are fun and easy to make!

Everything Granola Bars
makes 32 pieces

230g quick oats
110g white granulated sugar
5 packets saccharin (or other artificial sweetener, or another 1/2 cup sugar)
1/2 tsp salt
40g almonds (any type)
50g raisins
70g dried blueberries
30g sesame seeds
10g poppy seeds
25g shredded coconut
4 dried figs, chopped finely
1 tsp Chian mastic pearls, crushed with a mortar & pestle
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
85g butter
85g honey
2 tbsp glucose syrup / light corn syrup
1/2 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp sesame oil

1. Prepare pan: line a square baking pan with a wax paper sling, and spray well with cooking spray.

2. Grind a cup of the quick oats to a fine flour. In a food processor, process raisins, almonds, and blueberries for several minutes until in small pieces.

3. In a large bowl, combine the oats, oat flour, sugar, sweetener, salt, processed raisins, almonds, and blueberries, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, coconut, figs, and crushed Chian mastic.

4. Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F. Melt butter. Add honey, syrup, molasses, and tahini to butter, stirring. Pour over dry ingredients and combine. Add sesame oil and combine well.

5. Pour into prepared pan. Press and smooth top until flat and even. Bake 30 minutes or until lightly brown on top.

6. Cool on rack in pan. When completely cool, cut into 32 pieces. Wrap in foil or store in airtight box. Can be frozen.

Nutritional Information
per piece, i.e., 1/32 of recipe

116 calories
5g fat (2g saturated, 3g unsaturated)
17g carbohydrate
2g protein
2g dietary fiber
6mg cholesterol (2% DV)
64mg sodium (3% DV)
96mg potassium (3% DV)
Contains 23% DV of manganese.

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Anise-almond biscotti with orange glaze
Raisin walnut whole wheat bread

handmade thyme honey cornflakes

My husband and I were married a few days before the Greek economic crisis erupted in the international media.  Although he was still on the little island, I was back in Athens where I would stay for another month before we could officially move in together.  That month, May 2010, was when it hit us that things were going to have to change.  No more carelessly buying a bottle of water from a street vendor when we were thirsty, no more meeting friends at a cafe and ordering a cappuccino with a cookie, and no more running to the nearest supermarket to pick up a few things for dinner.

Like many people who decide to become more frugal, we had to do it in a hurry.  Comparison shopping and sale stalking replaced carefree dates with girlfriends at Starbucks.   And a whole long list of foods we were used to buying became blacklisted.  Breakfast cereal – cornflakes specifically – were at the top of the list.

Why something so mundane and ancient as the cornflake, a humble crumb of cornmeal and flour smushed together and baked, should be expensive, I never understood.  But a small box of cornflakes went for 4.95 euros, or $6.58 in US dollars.  From the mindless ‘oh, I eat that, throw it in the cart’ of my pre-crisis days, cornflakes were just simply not allowed in our house.

My new husband complained.  He loved cornflakes.  Especially the ones that were dipped in chocolate.  I reminded him that they were expensive beyond all reason, far more expensive than fresh fish on a per kilo basis, and he let it go.  Today, I am happy to say, I am able to reintroduce cornflakes into our diet – handcrafted cornflakes full of love but, alas, none of the vitamins that the cereal companies enrich them with.  (How do they do that, anyway?)

I found the recipe on Leda Meredith’s site Leda’s Urban Homestead.  I made a few minor changes, but the recipe is based on hers, which she notes is based on Mark Bittman’s recipe.

The recipe is simple but it calls for two pieces of specialized equipment:  a food processor, which you probably have, and a pasta maker, which you might not.  If you don’t have a pasta maker, get one right this minute – er, use a rolling pin.  It’s more work but the results are pretty close.

Work directly in the food processor bowl.  I halved the recipe because I have a mini food processor.  Put all purpose flour, (you can use whole wheat flour if you like – I was too lazy to grind it today) cornmeal, salt, and olive oil in the food processor.

Run it for a few seconds to mix everything together.

In a cup, stir the honey into the boiling water and pour into the food processor.

Run the processor.  Add water, a teaspoon at a time, until it forms a mildly sticky and pliable dough.  (Don’t be tempted to put in more than a teaspoon at a time.  Honestly.)

Dust a baking sheet with cornmeal.  Dust two if you have two.  I have only one.  Preheat your oven to 160 degrees C.  Get out your pasta maker.  I dusted mine with cornmeal first before using, just to prevent sticking.

Small pieces of dough can go through the pasta maker starting on the largest (#1) setting.  I did these up to setting #3, but I would recommend you go even higher if you can.  The thinner the dough, the better the result.

Arrange your rolled dough on the baking sheet.

Bake for about 25 minutes.

The world’s largest cornflakes.  Break up into pieces and serve with milk!

Thyme Honey Cornflakes

1.5 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Greek thyme honey
1/4 cup very hot water

1.  Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, and olive oil in the food processor.  Process til combined.

2.  Separately, stir honey into very hot water and pour diluted honey into processor.  Process, adding water 1 tsp at a time, until the dough is a soft, pliable, and slightly sticky consistency.

3.  Dust two baking sheets with cornmeal and preheat oven to 160 degrees C.

4.  Remove dough from food processor and cut into small pieces.  Pass each piece through pasta maker from setting #1 to setting #4 or higher if possible.  Lay out dough on baking sheet.

5.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Allow to cool, then break into pieces with hands.  Serve with milk.

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Almond flake cereal
Caraway Rolls
Poppyseed Rolls

almond flake cereal

This recipe came about because I was making cornflakes, for which one needs a food processor, and my food processor is so small that I halved the recipe; the idea was to do it in two batches.  But when I had the first batch in the oven, I felt that it would be too easy to do the same thing all over again.  I wanted to try something new, no recipes and rules, so looking over my baking cabinet, I decided to use almond flour instead of cornmeal, and orange flower water instead of regular water.  So that is what I did.

I’m sharing this recipe with you because it’s easy and fast and the result is pretty good.  The almond and orange flower flavors are both muted, which I think is probably for the best, since this is breakfast cereal after all.

Start in the bowl of a food processor, add all purpose flour, and almond flour,  (if you don’t have almond flour, you can make it by pulsing almonds in a food processor), salt, and olive oil, and run the food processor until they are combined.

Stir the honey into very hot water to soften it, and then stir in the orange flower water.  (If you don’t have orange flower water, you can leave it out.  You could try rose water if you want to get crazy, or a few drops of some flavor extract, maybe vanilla.  It’s up to you.  You’re the one who has to eat it.)  Add this liquid to the food processor.

Process for just a few seconds until the dough is combined.

Turn it out onto a piece of wax paper.

Form it into a pancake or ball or something.  Cut it into pieces about the size of your thumb.  Roll each piece with a rolling pin so that it is pretty flat.  Don’t sweat it too much since you’re about to run it through the pasta maker.

Not just any pasta maker – your mom’s vintage 1960s pasta maker!

Dust a baking sheet with cornmeal and preheat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius.

Pass each of these pieces through your pasta maker, starting with the lowest setting (#1) and going up to setting #3.  You probably won’t be able to roll them any thinner, because this dough is not the most forgiving.  Lay out the pieces on the baking sheet.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes.

Break them up into pieces.  Eat them like any other breakfast cereal, milk and berries or bananas or whatever you do.

Almond Flake Cereal

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp very hot water
1 tbsp Greek thyme honey
1 tbsp orange flower water
cornmeal for dusting

1.  Combine flours, salt, and oil in food processor; run to combine.

2.  Stir honey into water.  When dissolved, add orange flower water.  Add this mixture to the food processor.  Run for several seconds until combined.  Dust a baking sheet with cornmeal and preheat oven to 160 degrees C.

3.  Turn out dough onto wax paper and form into a pancake with hands.  Cut into 1.5″ pieces.  Pass through pasta maker from #1 to #3.  Lay out dough on baking sheet.

4.  Bake 15-20 minutes until crispy.  Allow to cool.  Break into small pieces with hands.  Serve with milk as any other breakfast cereal.

Be sure to check out  my cornflake-making experience!

This post is linking up with:

  A Delightsome Life