As I’ve mentioned before, I roast my way through vast amounts of seeds, nuts and oats every once in a while – both to replenish my quick-grab stock of salad-toppings and guilty-pleasure snacks and to refill hubby’s ginormic jar of breakfast granola. Usually I do this on one of those days, when little to no motivation and drive to do anything whatsoever coincide with the type of weather that makes you all but expect a loud blast of fanfares announcing the end of all days to any minute now.
I can’t think of too many things that are as capable as the wonderful aroma of freshly roasted nuts to snap any spirit out of doom-and-gloom on a “blah” day without having to set a single toe out of the house. Usually I introduce the nutty crowd, type by type, to my largest pan, and listen to the faint – and by the way… extremely soothing – popping sounds accompanying the comfy aromas wafting through the house. By some questionable stroke of luck, last year’s first nut-day came by while we were on Sylt for our winter-getaway. Usually the January-weather up there changes fast enough for you to dry off again – while watching the responsible thundercloud speed off to annoy someone else – before you can safely close your waterproof gear. So, basing a decision to stay in for the day on the current weather outside basically never makes sense for more than an hour or so. Occasionally, the mid-vacation exhaustion and a full day of ick outside meet though, and while that particular house with it’s warm-and-fuzzy-looking reed hat pulled down to just above the ground-floor door and windows spreads that comfy, huggy feeling to all of its inhabitants with a remarkable strength, letting a full day go by without putting the oven to at least one tiny use always feels like a bit of a waste in some corner of my mind. So, in order to celebrate one of those lazy days on our trip up north last year to its full extent, I decided not only to let the oven do the work for me for once, I also finally got around to trying to turn my signature GW2-inspired Trail Mix Granola blend into one of those crunchy numbers than can serve as mini-energy balls outside of a bowl of milk as well – without using too much sugary stuff in the process, of course.
Since I’m not a pro with oven-related things, I encountered a minor, yet convenient bump in the road – evidently I did actually use too much sugary stuff, honey in that particular case, and ended up with a brick of granola… and a few crumbly bits falling off the edges. Turning the oven’s lemons, so to speak, into a Margerita, I had at it with a large kitchen knife, sliced the brick into bars and stored the crumbly chunks that had miraculously ended up just the way I intended them to turn out, in a glass jar. I declared the whole incident a win-win and proceeded to refine the accidental brickwork into intentional Granola Bars on the next round~ And here it is, my refined accidental Granola Bars, loosely based on my GW2 Trail Mix Granola Recipe~!
The Trail Mix Granola Bars
350g Rolled Oats, lightly toasted
30g Desiccated Coconut Flakes, lightly toasted
50g Cashew Nuts, roughly chopped, lightly toasted
50g Walnuts, roughly chopped, lightly toasted
50g Puffed Spelt, Rice or Amaranth
30g Sesame Seeds, lightly toasted
30g Sunflower Seeds, lightly toasted
25g Flaxseeds, lightly toasted
25g Millet Seeds, lightly toasted
20g Poppy Seeds
70g Soft-Dried Mango, finely chopped
Alt: Soft-Dried Apples or Apricots work too, just make sure it’s a mild and juicy/slightly sticky fruit
30g Dried Cranberries, roughly chopped
Alt: any other type of dried berry works just as well
180ml Dark, intense Honey
70g Light Muscovado
100ml Vegetable Oil
1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1 Generous Pinch of Salt
1 Generous Pinch of Fleur de Sel
1 Generous Pinch of Ground Cinnamon
Optional Touch-Up “Frosting on the Bar”:
100g White Chocolate, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp Natural Yoghurt, at room temperature
1) Preheat the oven to 130°C.
2) In case you don’t have the nuts and seeds toasted and ready sitting in your storage, spread them all – minus the sesame, poppy seeds and flaxseeds, out on a large baking tray lined with a sheet of baking parchment.
3) Slide the tray into the oven on the middle rack and allow the lot to take on some color for 10-15 mins.
4) Meanwhile, heat up the small seeds in a pan set onto medium heat. Allow them to toast until the sesame seeds start to pop and jump around in the pan, which will happen at around 7-8 mins into their ordeal.
5) Once both batches are out of the frying pan, it’s time to combine them and sent them into the pot, so to speak. Place the contents of both the baking tray and the frying pan in a large mixing bowl and replace the pan with a small pot on your stove.
6) Lightly rub a brownie tin of about 30-35 x 25cm with a few drops of the vegetable oil and pour the rest of it into the pot you’ve just placed on medium heat.
7) Pour in the honey and stir in the fine salt, cinnamon, muscovado and coconut oil.
8) Keep stirring the mixture as it heats up until the sugar has completely dissolved.
9) Set the pot aside for a couple of minutes to cool down just a little, then pour the mix into the bowl holding your granola mixture.
10) Give the lot a quick stir with a wooden spoon before the oats can soak up all of the honey in one corner and ball up, then add the dried fruit and comence the stirring routine until everything is honey-glossy and deliciously sticky.
11) Grab your brownie tin and snap on a pair of CSI gloves.
12) Tip the contents of your bowl into the center of the tin and gently press the mixture into a tightly packed 1-1,5cm thick layer, working your way outwards into the corners of the tin. In case you’d end up with a too thin or too thick layer for some reason, either move to a larger tray or use a dough spatula to push back the “dough” and shape a somewhat smaller square within your current brownie tin – if you’d spread it out too thinly, the finished result would simply dissolve into crunchy crumbs while a too-thick brick wouldn’t set and break up into honey-wet crumbs instead. Both still delicious but not what you’re looking for at this point~
13) Make sure the surface of the dough is as “even” as a layer of roasted nuts and seeds can be, sprinkle it with an even footwork of Fleur de Self flakes and nudge the occasional stray nutty bit or oat back into the mix if necessary to avoid minor burns.
14) Pop the tray into your preheated oven and bake the lot for 50 minutes until the surface turns a nice golden brown and the aromas wafting out of your kitchen are making your stomach rumble in anticipation~
15) Carefully turn the brick out on a cutting board and use a heavy and very sharp knife to cut it into bars while it’s still warm.
16) Place the bars on a cooling rack and allow them to set and cool down.
The Optional Yoghurt-Chocolate Flourish
Once they’re cooled you have two choices:
a) Dig in~! Or
b) Doll them up and keep them in a cookie jar for later. Moderation, and all that… at least you can cover moderation with a quick chocolate frosting~!
1) Place the chopped white chocolate in a waterbath set up and, while stirring, melt it down into a glossy white, creamy liquid.
2) Take the bowl off the steam as soon as most of the chunks have dissolved, then add the yoghurt and keep stirring until the mixture’s smooth and even again.
3) Set the bowl aside and allow its contents to return to room temperature.
4) In the meantime, set your cooling rack onto a sheet of baking parchment or any other disposable mess-catcher.
5) Pick up a table spoon and, with a flick of your wrist, drizzle the waiting bars with the chocolatey “Speed Frosting”.
6) Once both the bars and the chocolate have set, place them in an airtight container or cookie box and pop them into the fridge or another cool’ish place – preferably one that falls into the “out of sight, out of immediate mind” category~! Since the lingering granola perfume will most likely stick around for a bit, that might be a hard thing to do, though. Well hell, everything in moderation? Even moderation? All right, then…