Nutty-Seedy-Fruity Energy Bars

I've professed my love for Flour bakery in Boston numerous times on this blog (Intense Chocolate Brownies, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, and Apricot Almond & Cherry Almond Muffins).  I still stings that we moved away from our fabulous apartment on Clarendon Street in the South End and a new Flour bakery opened just around the corner as soon as we left.  I suppose my waistline is thankful, but the rest of me is not.

If you've read my dessert posts before, you'll know that I love to reduce sugar in my baking.  I find most desserts cloyingly sweet and don't mind making things healthy as well.  Joanne Chang (of Flour fame) published a new cookbook called "Baking with Less Sugar" that highlights ways to use less sugar or alternatives to sugar (honey, maple syrup, molasses, or fruit).  I've only made this recipe I'm sharing, but it was a huge hit and I can't wait to try others.

These bars filled both the snack void and the breakfast-on-the-go void that are often filled with less healthy options.  Granola bars are delicious, but often are full of fat and unhealthy ingredients.  These are flavorful, easy for grabbing and going, and the perfect early afternoon pick-me-up or pre-exercise snack.  Make a batch and you'll always have a healthy snack available.

I haven't tried adapting this recipe, but suspect you could replace like ingredients if you don't like them (e.g., sub certain nuts or fruits for others).  The genius of this recipe is the pureeing of the dried fruit that has been reconstituted.  This fruity liquid/jam makes the bars congeal, which typically requires lots of butter or other fat.  Don't be intimidated by the long ingredients list and please let me know what you think!

I forgot to take a photo before sneaking one of the bars!

I forgot to take a photo before sneaking one of the bars!

Nutty-Seedy-Fruity Energy Bars
Baking with Less Sugar by Joanne Chang
Yield = 16 large bars

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 3/4 cup pecan pieces
  • 1/2 cup dried apple slices, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup sultanas (golden raisins - I skipped these and just used 1 cup of raisins)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant oats)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (such as canola)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 rip banana, mashed
  • 1/4 cup flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup millet

Preparation
1.  Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

2.  Put the walnuts, almonds, and pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, or until slightly toasted.  Set aside to cool.

3.  Put the dried apples, cranberries, apricots, sultanas, and raisins in a medium bowl and pour boiling water over the fruit to cover.  Let sit for 30 minutes.

4.  Decrease the oven temperate to 325 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

5.  In a large bowl, combine the nuts, almond flour, buckwheat flour, oats, coconut, salt, cinnamon, vegetable oil, honey, banana, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, and millet.  Using a wooden spoon, stir well until thoroughly combined. 

6.  Drain the fruit into a medium bowl, reserving 1/4 cup of the soaking water and discarding the rest of the liquid.  Divide the fruit roughly in half, place half in a food processor or in a  blender, and add the reserved soaking water.  Process until you have a chunky jam.  Add the jam to the nut mixture along with the remaining whole fruit.  Stir well to combine.  

7.  Press the mixture evenly on the prepared baking sheet into a rectangle about 12 by 8 inches.  I used a rimmed quarter baking sheet, which is slightly larger than that but worked quite well.  Using a sharp knife, cut the rectangle in half lengthwise and then cut each half into 8 pieces widthwise so you have a total of 16 bars.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown throughout.  Reduce the oven temperate to 250 degrees and continue to bake for another hour.  Turn off the oven and let the bars sit in the oven until completely cool.  They will get dark, but that is okay.

8.  Remove from the oven and, using a sharp knife, recut the bars along the marks to separate.  The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

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