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.
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
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)
Its up to you! A cup or so of each of whatever you want to make them special – chocolate chips, coconut, cranberries, currants, mango……..
- Preheat oven to convection 375
- Separately assemble the date paste, the grains with skim milk powder, the nuts, the liquid ingredients and the flavor additions.
- Date paste: remove the pits from the dates and either food process or put through a meat grinder.
- Nuts: place all the nuts in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Remove half of them. Further food process the rest for as long as it takes for them to become a nut butter.
- Thoroughly mix together the date paste, nuts & nut butter, and grains
- Slightly heat the oil and honey and wisk to achieve a temporary emulsion (30 seconds in a microwave). Add in vanilla and egg whites. Wisk again to thoroughly combine.
- Mix wet ingredients thoroughly with dry ingredient mix. You may prefer to use a stand mixer to do this, but by hand is fine too. It should be uniform and sticky at the end.
- Place spoonfuls of half of the mixture down into a 11″x16″ cookie tray lined with parchment paper. If you use a larger tray, you will need to bump up the mix proportionaltely. This quantity of mix is right for this size of tray.
- Place a sheet of waxed paper over the mix and gently roll it out so there is an even layer.
- Add in any extras – currants, mango, coconut, chocolate
- Place spoonfuls of the second half of the mixture over the flavoring additions
- Using the sheet of wax paper, roll out the second layer until it is even and in all corners.
- Cut into squares with pizza cutter
- Bake in preheated oven @375, for 23 minutes on the middle rack.
- Remove & let cool.