Crunchy Granola Bars, Barefoot Contessa-Style

Crunchy Granola Bars, Barefoot Contessa-Style

It’s no secret: I’m an Ina Garten fan. I’ve blogged about her roasted eggplant spread, her roasted Brussels sprouts, her barbecue sauce, her turkey meatloaf, her popovers, her Paris cookbook, even how she inspired me to live a life devoted to food. So you shouldn’t be surprised that I’m blogging an Ina recipe once more. This time it’s Homemade Granola Bars, from her latest book, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics.

It’s been out for a few months, but I only just bought a copy recently (I know, some fan). Since its arrival, it’s been hanging out in my bathroom—I find that cookbooks, especially fun-to-read ones, are perfect bathroom material. I browse, I daydream, I think about recipes I’d like to try. This one caught my eye, in large part because it calls for a cup of sliced almonds. And I just happen to have been paid a visit by the blog-goody fairy not too long ago:

Oh Nuts, a Brooklyn-based outfit selling bulk nuts, dried fruit, and candy, sent me this lovely care package. From l-r, those are sliced almonds, roasted hazelnuts, kubakim, and dark chocolate-covered cherries. The cherries were the first to go, no surprise, mostly because I’d grab one or two almost every time I went into the kitchen. But I also snuck one into each cupcake I baked for my mom’s birthday a few weeks ago:

(They’re a slightly simpler version of the Better Than Sex Cupcakes from The Cupcake Project.)

But I know what you’re asking: What the heck is a kubakim?

Short answer: I don’t know, exactly—Chef Google didn’t have much to say, and the package doesn’t have an ingredients list. Apparently it’s an Israeli peanut treat, in which individual peanuts are encased in a faintly sweet dough shell. Each one’s a crunch bomb with a peanut inside. Sorta like a Boston Baked Bean, only with a flour-based dough. Honestly, it’s not my favorite thing ever—we tasted them, but they’re not exactly calling to us from the pantry. If you’re a kubakim fan say so in the comments, and I’ll send em your way!

So, apologies for that major digression. Back to the granola bars. These are most definitely not chewy bars—in fact, they shattered a bit when I cut them. But I didn’t mind—just meant I got to have a little sample before serving. And as much as I love Quaker’s 90-calorie chewy granola bars, sometimes nothing satisfies me like a good old Nature Valley Oats & Honey. Picture yourself eating one of those, only with toasted coconut and bits of dried fruit. Can’t go wrong with that, right?

Crunchy Granola Bars
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics
Makes 16 bars

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds [mine came from Oh Nuts]
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed [Ina doesn’t specify, but I used unsweetened]
1/2 cup flax meal [Ina calls for toasted wheat germ, but I prefer the health benefits of flax]
3 T. unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped dried fruit [Ina calls for pitted dates, apricots, and cranberries, but I just used whatever I had: cherries, blueberries, apricots, and figs]

Preheat oven to 350. Spray and 8 x 12-inch baking pan [I only have 9 x 13, and it was fine—baking time was shorter, though] and line with parchment paper.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10-12 minutes. At the halfway mark, add the flax meal and stir. When lightly browned, remove from oven and put into a large mixing bowl.

Reduce oven temperature to 300.

Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute—it will be very bubbly. Pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture, add the dried fruit, and stir well.

Pour the mixture into prepared pan, and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. [She says to use wet fingers, but I used the back of a spoon & it was fine—just be sure you’re making the edges at least as thick as the center, or the fruit will take on an acrid, burned taste. Trust me on this.] Bake for 25-30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into bars, and serve at room temperature. [These are not chewy bars, so don’t be surprised if pieces break off while you’re cutting.]