Set your granola bars high Make 'em at home for full-flavor treats free of additives

Published: Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 4D

Making granola bars is easier than making cookies. There's no butter and sugar to cream, so there's no need for a mixer or bringing butter and eggs to room temperature.

Homemade granola bars have no additives, no preservatives, no artificial flavors or colors, and no unpronounceable ingredients – just whole-grain oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit.

They're a guilty pleasure without a lot of guilt because you control the sugar. They're also easy to grab when you're on the go because they hold their shape.

Steel-cut oatmeal in the cinnamon and berry granola bars creates a sturdy bar that crumbles in the mouth into smaller pieces that deliver a satisfying chew. The sugar takes a back seat to the toasted flavor of the oatmeal.

The apricot, pistachio and almond flapjacks are also light on sugar, hard in texture. The bars are dry-tasting with bits of hard apricots that provide a nice, tart finish to the mellow flavor of old-fashioned oatmeal.

The granola bars from America's Test Kitchen are made with old-fashioned oatmeal. These bars are sweet – almost dessertlike – and melt in your mouth. Replace olive oil with butter for a distinctive taste that's hard to beat.

The granola rounds are the sweetest of the bunch. Quick-cook oatmeal gives them a soft and chewy texture, and the added egg ensures that they hold their shape and don't crumble.

All three recipes can be customized to suit your taste: Use different types of oats, vary the amount of nuts and seeds and dried fruit, add cinnamon. Change up the sugar and the shortening; corn syrup will produce a sturdier bar and butter adds an unmistakable flavor.

You can even try a combination of corn syrup and marshmallows. Use dried dates for added sweetness.

Don't skimp on the nuts and seeds, though. They give the granola bars an added layer of flavor.

For all but the granola rounds, heat all the wet ingredients before mixing into the dry ingredients to give the bars a running start in coming together.

Two of the recipes don't require coconut. Do yourself a favor and add it. Shredded coconut gives granola texture and flavor.

Recipe: Granola bars
Recipe: Apricot, pistachio and almond "flapjacks"
Recipe: Granola rounds
Recipe: Cinnamon and berry granola bars

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Read more articles by Sharon K. Ghag



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