This may well be the first time I've ever used dried blueberries in a recipe. In fact, I almost forgot altogether that I had these Michigan blueberries on hand. I got them last summer from a spice-scented little shop up north. It's crammed with cooking gadgets, household antiques (not for sale), and interesting ingredients. Surrounded by tall trees, the shop's leafy exterior is whimsically cluttered with garden kitsch, and they sometimes have a sign out front that blatantly prods passersby to visit, reading, "If you have a kitchen, get in here!" Tourists oblige. It's just that kind of place.
Each time I'm in the vicinity, which is typically two or three times a summer, I can't resist wandering in. I've acquired all sorts of culinary doodads there over the years, most of them distinctly non-essential but fun to have. Items like oddly-shaped muffin pans, a cupcake corer, a couple of scissor-like cherry pitters, tiny tart pans, two or more pastry cloths, a rolling-pin stockinette (just the word "stockinette" reminds me of my childhood), spice mixtures, and uncommon jams. It's just not the kind of place you can dash in and out of. You need lots of time to browse. It's a summertime kind of place.
And on this ice-coated day, granola bars, for whatever reason, kind of remind me of summer. Oh luscious, lovely summer . . . warm, sunny summer. Less than five months to go. We can wait . . . I suppose.
About this recipe . . .
Adapted from Kim Boyce's beautiful book, Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours, these granola bars are hard, crunchy, and slightly chewy. I made a few minor adjustments to the formula but nothing radical: I used dried blueberries instead of raisins, substituted toasted wheat germ for a portion of the flaxseed meal, and threw in a modicum of sunflower seeds along with a pinch of ground nutmeg. I'd definitely make these again.
Honey Oat Granola Bars with Dried Blueberries
Yield: 16 squares (made in a 9" x 9" pan)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 cups rolled oats (I used a mixture of both old fashioned- and quick oats; just what I had on hand.)
2 tablespoons wheat germ, toasted (To toast, spread on a small cookie sheet; bake in 325 oven for 10 minutes, just until slightly darker in color and nutty smelling.)
1 quarter cup, plus 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
3 tablespoons sunflower seeds (I used roasted and salted sunflower seeds.)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 cup dried blueberries (If you don't have dried blueberries, try raisins or dried cherries/cranberries instead.)
1/2 cup honey
1/4 dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses, unsulphured
1 teaspoon salt (I used coarse sea salt.)
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9" x 9" square pan with vegetable spray, or butter it liberally ((I used a metal pan, but a glass baking dish is fine too, and I used the spray instead of butter).
Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot (I used a dutch oven). Add in the oats, and stir to combine with the butter. Cook over a medium flame for about six minutes, stirring frequently. You want the oats to turn a little darker.
Dump the oats into a large heat-proof bowl. Wipe out the pot and put it aside/back on the stove; you'll use it later to make the syrup.
Add the toasted wheat germ, the flaxseed meal, the sunflower seeds, the cinnamon, and the nutmeg into the bowl with the oats. Stir well to combine, then stir in the dried blueberries.
For the syrup, heat the honey, brown sugar, molasses, and salt in the pot over a medium flame. Stir to combine and then let the mixture simmer at a low boil for approximately 6 minutes. (It needs to boil that long, according to author Kim Boyce, in order to give the granola bars their chewiness.)
Pour all of the syrup over the dry ingredients, scraping as much as possible out of the pan. Working quickly, use a flexible rubber spatula to mix in the syrup (you can butter/spray your spatula if you like; helps facilitate the stirring). Keep mixing until everything in the bowl looks like it's well coated with the syrup.
Scrape the granola into your pan and, with buttered hands, evenly and firmly press it down (it will still be kind of hot, so be prepared).
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes (rotating the pan once, after about 13 minutes), until the granola looks nicely shiny and darker than when you put it in the oven. Let the bars cool in the pan, on a rack, for 10 minutes, then cut them into 16 squares while they're still in the pan. (If you wait too long to cut them, you won't be able to neatly do so since they'll become too hard.) Use a rigid metal spatula to remove them from the pan, piece by piece, to finish cooling on the cooling rack.
Store in an airtight container, at room temperature.
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