Nature Valley-esque Granola Bars

A while back, I posted a recipe for chewy granola bars that reminded me of the Quaker Oats brand. The thin, dense, crunchy granola bar–like the ones made by Nature Valley–proved more difficult to reproduce.  But, victory at last!

The trick, I think, is pulverizing the oats so that they compact down tightly more readily.

Chocolate Covered Crunchy Nature Valley-esque Granola Bars
Use the larger amount of sugar for bars with a sweetness level closer to the boxed kind; use the smaller amount for bars that are slightly less sweet.

10.5 ounces oats, 3 1/2 cups
2 ounces rice crispies, 2 cups
4 Tbl. corn flour (not cornmeal or cornstarch, but a very finely ground cornmeal–or 2 ounces finely ground corn cereal)
1/2 cup safflower oil
3/4-1 cup brown sugar syrup (I used Log Cabin Natural, which is a mix of brown rice syrup and brown sugar, but you can use a mix of half brown sugar and half corn syrup or maple syrup)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda

up to 12 ounces chocolate chips

Pulse the oats in food processor in twelve 1 second pulses until a partially ground. Combine the oats, rice crispies, corn flour, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. Add the oil, syrup and vanilla. Mix together the dry and wet ingredients to evenly combine.

Dump the mixture onto a parchment lined 12″x17″ baking sheet and press the mixture into a 12″ square. For thinner bars, spread out evenly to the size of the baking sheet. (It helps to cover the top of the sticky mixture with a sheet of parchment and then press down and roll out with a rolling pin.) Compact very, very tightly. Bake at 300 degrees for 40 minutes, taking the pan out of the oven halfway through baking to slice into bars.

Take the pan out of the oven and sprinkle the chips evenly over the granola bars (you don’t need to use all 12 ounces of chips, just enough to thinly coat the bars). Turn off the oven. Put the pan back in the turned off oven and let the chips melt (should take a couple of minutes). Take the pan out again and spread the melted chips into an even layer. Recut the bars along the original lines and let cool. Separate into bars and layer between waxed paper in an airtight container. (For a more attractive effect, turn the bars upside down before sprinkling the chips over. The underside is less attractive than the top and hence better for coating with chocolate.)

Makes about 2 dozen bars (about 21 thick or 27 thin bars)

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