Saturday, March 14, 2009

Seasonal Snacks: Maple Granola Bars


March 22 is Maine Maple Sunday, a chance to see syrup production from sap collection to bottling, and to taste the first maple syrup of the season (best appreciated on a handful of spring snow). You can find a list of participating maple producers at the Maine Department of Agriculture website.

If you pick up a big jug of syrup this weekend and don't know what to do when you run out of pancakes, try granola. Maple syrup is a perfect sticky sweetener for oats, nuts, seeds, and fruit. At school, I'm always starving by mid-morning, and granola bars provide a burst of energy. But in most store-bought varieties that energy is short-lived: empty calories from processed sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Maple syrup is natural, simply tree sap with most of its water boiled away, and it has a richness that artificial flavors and sweeteners can't duplicate.

Developing a granola bar recipe was a Goldilocks sort of experience. The first batch was too soft. The bars fell apart and were so sticky I had to wash my hands after eating them. In the second batch I tried peanut butter instead of oil, but the bars were hard as a rock, and the peanut butter overpowered the flavor of the maple syrup.

The third batch, a compromise between the two, was just right. Oil makes the bars chewy, but I used as little as I could get away with. I replaced some of the maple syrup with brown rice syrup, another natural sweetener with the thickness of honey and a mild caramel flavor that doesn't dominate the granola. I tossed in a variety of seeds rich in nutrients and essential fatty acids: pumpkin seeds for protein and copper, sesame for calcium and zinc, sunflower seeds for vitamin E, and omega-3-rich flax seeds to help bind the granola. You'll be proud of yourself for eating these satisfying snacks that showcase local, seasonal maple syrup.


Maine Maple Granola Bars

3 cups oats
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)

1/2 cup dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, or raisins)
1/2 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup ground flax seeds

3/4 cup Maine maple syrup
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Heat the oven to 325F. On a baking sheet, combine the oats, coconut, and chopped nuts, and toast for 15 minutes, stirring every five minutes to ensure even toasting. Once toasted, combine the oat mixture with the seeds and dried fruit in a large bowl.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, whisk together the maple syrup, brown rice syrup, oil, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt until evenly combined. Remove from heat and pour over the dry ingredients. Stir until uniformly coated.

Line a 9x13 baking dish with enough parchment or wax paper that some hangs over the edges. Scoop the mixture into the baking dish and spread with a spatula. Place another sheet of parchment paper on top of the mixture, then use a smaller baking dish or a large book to press it down very firmly. Once the mixture is pressed flat, remove the top piece of parchment paper and bake for 30 minutes.

The granola will not be set firmly when it comes out of the oven. Let it sit undisturbed in the baking dish for at least 6 hours. This is hard, because it will smell wonderful, but it must cool completely before being cut into bars. When ready to cut, use the overhanging parchment paper to lift the granola out of the baking dish and onto a cutting board. Cut into 10-12 bars and store in an airtight container.


(taking a swig of the good stuff from my maple flask)

9 comments:

  1. those look great!

    You know, I haven't checked out Portland.. thanks for the reminder.

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  2. Mary,

    Does it matter what type of oats are used? I only have rolled oats, and I'm wondering if those will do. Thank you, and I can't wait to try this!

    Mikaila

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  3. My box of oatmeal says "old fashioned oats", which may or may not be the same thing as rolled. I think any kind besides pre-cooked/instant would work-- you just don't want them to dissolve in the liquid.

    These are so good. I made a dozen on Friday and there is one left by Tuesday afternoon.

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  4. I found the link to these through the PPK. They look so amazing. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

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  5. wow- these turned out way good. i have a couple granola bar recipe disaters in the last month and these really worked. Chewy, crunchy, sweet and they stayed together pretty well. I've been trying to get the kiddies to eat more protein and these are packed with yummy seeds and nuts. Thanks for the recipe Mary

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  6. Diane Carol PinkhamMarch 21, 2009 at 8:47 AM

    I found the link through Maine Food and Lifestyle's blog Plating Up. March 22 is Maine Maple Sunday. Just FYI, anytime a recipe says "oats" it means rolled oats, this is the stuff you cook to make oatmeal, and if it does not specify, you can use either "old-fashioned oats" which take about 10 minutes to cook or "quick oats" which take about 1 minute to make oatmeal, which is still not the instant stuff that was mentioned in an earlier post.

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  7. Thanks Meghan, that's great to hear. I always make recipes a few times before posting them, but I love to hear how they work for other people. We've been eating granola bars by the truckload (it may be time to lay off a bit).

    Diane-- thanks for the info. You are like an oat expert.

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  8. Good dear, Its really a amazing post. Good job. I always try to make different types of recipes and dishes. Maple Garnola Bars looks very delicious. I would like to make it at some occasion. Thank You.

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  9. These were outstanding!
    Turned out exactly as I hoped they would.
    Thanks for posing such a great recipe.

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