The best crunchy granola bars

May I share with you the best crunchy granola bar recipe ever?

I love making homemade granola bars. They straddle the line between dessert and breakfast artfully — a glorious marriage of healthy oats and nuts with the sure-fire deliciousness of fat and sugar.

Granola Bars

Pretty awesome granola bars.

I have a few granola bar recipes that I pull out every so often (like this excellent chewy version ), but this summer I became dissatisfied with the way most homemade granola bars inevitably fall apart. Isn’t there a better way?

Questions like this are always handled best by our favorite scientists: the folks at America’s Test Kitchen. I had glanced at their recipe for crunchy granola bars in Baking Illustrated previously, but rejected it due to fussiness. I don’t really need to toast the oats separately, do I? And this business of chopping the nuts into two different sizes — that seems like a lot of work for just a basic granola bar. Is it really worth it? It turns out, the answer is: yes. It is totally worth these ridiculous steps if you want to eat a deliciously awesome, perfectly-textured homemade granola bar that doesn’t fall apart.

The authors say that you can add other spices or even some dried fruit (they recommend cranberries or cherries, plumped in warm juice and then chopped), but I have enjoyed the simplicity of just the oats and nuts (although I do like the addition of cinnamon). I experimented with substituting maple syrup for the honey and got a wonderfully flavorful pile of granola that sometimes acquiesced into a bar shape. I might make that granola again for the flavor, but for making the bars, stick with the honey.

Happy baking!

Maple Granola Bars

Substituting maple syrup for the honey yields a delicious (but very crumbly) concoction.

Crunchy Granola Bars

adapted from Baking Illustrated

7 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup coconut oil (or another vegetable oil)
1½ teaspoon salt (or perhaps a bit less if you’re not as into the salty-sweet thing as I am)
2 cups sweetened coconut
1½ cups whole pecans (they say that almonds or walnuts will work well too)
¾ cup honey
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon (optional)

Directions

Butter an 18 × 12-inch rimmed baking sheet (I use a roasting pan) and line with parchment paper. Toast the oats, oil, and salt at 375° for 20 min, stirring twice. Add the coconut and toast for 10-15 more minutes, stirring once or twice.

In the meantime, chop nuts in the food processor, first coarsely (10 one-second pulses). Remove half of the pecans, then chop the rest of them fine (20-30 seconds). (This seems like a high-maintenance step, but it’s worth it. The tiny pecan pieces serve as some of the flavorful glue between all the oats and the big pecan pieces add texture.)

Combine honey and brown sugar in saucepan and cook over medium heat until dissolved. Off heat and stir in vanilla (and optional cinnamon).

Combine oats, nuts, and honey mixture in large bowl. Press very firmly into lined roasting pan. (I press it in with the bottom of a juice glass, dipping the glass in water periodically to prevent sticking.) Bake at 300° 45-50 minutes. Cool, in the pan, for 10 minutes. Then lift out by the parchment sheet onto a cutting board and slice 6 × 8 while still warm. (Lifting it out is sometimes a little tricky, and I have cracked it along the way, but don’t fear — slice it as usual, and it will re-adhere along the cracks as it cools.)

Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container. (I’ve successfully stored them for up to two weeks with only a slight loss in texture.)

Serving Size: Makes 48 squares.

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