The first granola bar I ever tasted came from a natural foods bakery in Oakland. It was a tempting combination of chewy bar cookie and enough crunchy whole grains to make me feel virtuous about the indulgence.
I bought them whenever I could until the store that carried them went out of business. I pined for something similar but no other commercial granola bar has even come close. Most are hard bricks that taste little better than sawdust and are suited only for emergency rations in my book.
Recently, though, I’ve been working on my own recipe, prompted by a hike with a friend who was working very hard to make her calories count. Not for her the chocolate chip cookies I usually bring along on hikes, even though they’re loaded with oats and granola, too.
For Sara, I came up with something new — a whole wheat blondie packed with as much good granola as possible without losing the moist, chewy foundation.
Admittedly, this granola bar still has butter and sugar. (If you’re going to eat baked goods, I say, you should just go for the good stuff and eat less of it.) But it also contains an extraordinarily generous portion of only lightly sweetened nuts and whole grains as well as dried fruit.
I’ve tweaked the recipe over the course of several hikes with other friends and like this version best. Top quality granola is essential. I’ve used homemade granola sweetened with maple syrup, although any good commercial granola will work, too.
The optional chocolate chips are a nice touch but don’t give in to the impulse to increase the quantity. Too much chocolate changes the character of the bars altogether.
These bars received the seal of approval from a quartet of teenage boys on a backpacking trip to Point Reyes last month. They devoured them all. Of course, they also ate everything else in sight.
More to the point, perhaps, the adults hikers gave them their vote, too.
Makes about 3 dozen bars
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup butter at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups granola
½ cup chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly butter a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper leaving extra at each end to use as handles to remove the bars later.
Whisk together the flour and salt.
In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle beater, cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions. On low speed, stir in the vanilla, then the flour and salt, mixing until flour disappears. Add 3 cups of granola and the chocolate chips, if using, and mix on lowest speed until well combined.
Spread batter in the prepared pan and smooth top. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup granola evenly over all and lightly pat into the top of the batter.
Bake for about 30 minutes. The bars are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Lift bars out of the pan using parchment handles and transfer to a cutting board. Slice into bars.