Make great energy bars!

I first got onto this a little over a year ago. If I’m not mistaken, my son had made an expedition to Costco to buy a case of Cliff bars, and I thought, “What is really in these things? Can I not do better?”

My next thought went to the granola I was making. I figured that an energy – or granola bar (there really is not a lot of difference) would have the same base of stuff in it – carbs in the form of grains, protein in the form of nuts, sweetener to provide some quick sugar in the form of honey and/or dried fruit.

So…. I wanted it to be nutritious, really tasty, organic if possible, give a good solid kick to a flagging athlete, and just as importantly, to not crumble apart.

On this last item, I  had to do a little searching and talking. To begin with, my friend Chuck suggested that I grind the nuts  – or at least some of them to a fine paste  – like a nut butter.Image

Next, an energy bar rep giving free samples whispered, “the secret ingredient is dates”. This made a lot of sense. They are very sticky, intensely sweet, and give some pretty fast energy. There was one other item I figured out on my own – egg whites. With the various eggs benedict and mayo that gets made around here, there are usually egg whites begging to be used. What a great additional source of both binding and protein!

The final piece of keeping them stuck together was the temperature. I cook granola at 300  – and this is too low for effective caramelization. I felt putting it up near 400 would be too much – the sides would get burned, possibly the top too. So I tried – and settled on 375. If your oven has a convection setting, use that.This provides sufficient heat it seems for it all to get nicely cooked, and not fall apart.

I also wanted a certain logic and simplicity to the recipe. Perhaps that is code for a ratio or proportion.

My granola has equal parts grains and nuts. I decided for these guys to double the nuts, but still overall the proportion of oil, cinnamon and vanilla to dry mix had to be about the same as the granola. This meant adding to the nuts, and reducing the grains.

In the realm of sweetener, I increased the honey – not quite double – about 80% more. In part this was to make it all a tidy ratio-based recipe.

Finally, almost as an afterthought – a “why not add some more protein” kind of afterthought, I threw in some skim milk powder.

Here then, is the complete recipe. The numbers in brackets are the ratios. This will make exactly one 11×17 tray.

B’s High Protein Energy Bars

Ingredients
Dry ingredient mix
240 g mixed grains – mainly oats (4)
480g mixed nuts (8). Fine grind half the nut mix; course chop the other half
120 g dates, in a paste (2)
7 g cinamon
60 g skim milk powder (1)
Wet ingredient mix
60g oil (1)
240g honey (4)
5 ml vanilla extract
2 egg whites, whipped and added to liquid mix (~1)

Additional flavorings  

Its up to you! A cup or so  of each of whatever you want to make them special – chocolate chips, coconut, cranberries, currants, mango……..

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Mix all ingredients thoroughly
  • Press down into a cookie tray about 1/4″ thick. The back of a  metal serving spoon coated with cooking oil works well for this.
  • Add in any extras – currants, mango, coconut, chocolate
  • Cut into squares with pizza cutter
  • Bake in preheated oven @375, for 23 minutes on the middle rack.
  • Remove & let cool.

There’s one other piece to note in this. Food processing dates can be nasty  – they are so sticky! I have broken at least one food processor blade doing this. A few months ago I took a huge pile of dates, removed the pits and put them through my meat grinder, yielding what I can only call date paste. I now spoon this out into the bars. It could also be used for date bars.

I tried a few new things in today’s recipe:

  • I thoroughly combined the date paste with the fine ground nut mix.
  • I slightly heated the honey and olive oil, whipped them to achieve a temporary emulsion, into which I added the egg whites and vanilla, and whipped them again.
  • I kneaded the whole mixture by hand until it was well combined Image
  • I then pressed it into the pan and added my toppings after it was spread evenly. The toppings were nudged and encouraged to combine with the mix by a rather persuasive oiled spoon shown below. This is different than previous practice when I would mix the toppings in a series of separate bowls, then add them all separately. I don’t think it matters much – It was faster this way.
  • Another option would be to add only half the mix and spread it evenly in your pan. Then add the ‘extra’ ingredients on top. Then add on the other half of the grain/nut/honey/date mix.
  • A further option is to lay a sheet of waxed paper over the sheet and gently roll it flat. Once its even, peel back the waxed paper, cut into desired squares and of course bake.

And here is the final result! Image

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